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  1. 29 likes
    “It is Hard Work” Now that isn’t a comment on our journey through the Congo, but a quote that came up more than once from our wonderful driver/guide Martin, and sadly pretty much sums up the life of the average Congolese. On a much happier note for us, we have just come back from one of the most amazing trips to Africa we have ever been on. First, the trip itinerary. 11/9 - Day flight to Kigali, Rwanda, with KLM from Manchester via Amsterdam. Overnight in the Hotel des Mille Collines. 12/9 - Road journey to the border with DRC at Cyangugu via Nyungwe Forest. 3 nts in Orchids Safari Club hotel in Bukavu. 13/9 - Gorilla trek in Kahuzi-Biega NP. 14/9 - Gorilla trek in Kahuzi-Biega NP. 15/9 - Boat transfer on Lake Kivu to Goma, road journey to Virunga NP. 3 nts Bukima Camp 16/9 - Gorilla trek in Virunga NP. 17/9 - Gorilla trek in Virunga NP. 18/9 - Gorilla trek in Virunga NP. Road transfer to Mikeno Lodge, stay for 2 nts 19/9 - Free day at Mikeno Lodge 20/9 - Road journey back to Goma, cross border and onward to Kigali. Overnight flight back to Manchester with KLM. Steppes Travel based in the UK, arranged this trip for us. They have plenty of experience in arranging travel to the more off the beaten track destinations and as we had used them for several holidays in the past we had every confidence in them. In the DRC they use a trusted and very reliable ground agent and at no point during the holiday did we feel unsafe in any way whatsoever. We particularly wanted to see the Eastern Lowland Gorillas. They can only be found in Eastern DRC and the only habituated groups accessible to tourists are in Kahuzi-Biega NP. It then made sense to combine this with a visit to Virunga NP to see the Mountain Gorillas. We had previously trekked Mountain Gorillas back in 2006 in both Rwanda and Uganda so it would be nice to finally see them in the Congo as well. I will round off this intro with pictures of 2 Silverback gorillas. The first is the Eastern Lowland and the second, the Mountain Gorilla. See the differences? More on that and the different methods of habituation later in the report. Eastern Lowland Gorilla - Bonane, Bonane Group, Kahuzi-Biega NP Mountain Gorilla Silverback - Humba group, Virunga NP
  2. 27 likes
    It was great to be back at the very comfortable Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg where we transferred to another flight to the reserve. You can't fault service in Tswalu - it's always impeccable, and so it was at Tswalu's hangar. we had a shower and had brunch and just relaxed. we were the only guests flying into the reserve, but for company on the flight, we had a freelancer guide and a new employee with the security/anti-poaching team. Tswalu had a couple of small changes since my last trip but much of the place remained the same. They'd talked about undertaking refurbishment this year but the lodge has been so busy the management had no time to close the lodge. the refurbishment is now pushed to next year. Our guide is Kosie, an affable and experienced guide who hailed from Sabi Sands, while tracker Ben has been set on his career since young and many times this pair brought tracking to fruition while we were there. Kosie immediately recognised me but embarassingly I didn't recognise him. he had guided me on my last morning at Tswalu after my guide Adrian left earlier with the flight to Johannesburg. I had known him then as Chris, but I still couldn't recognise him. My OH had a long list of species he wanted to see - aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, brown hyena, oryx, roan, sable, meerkats, and a big male kudu - all of which he had not see before. The drive to the lodge yielded the first species - the enchanting roan. Long of ears, large of eyes, and the curiousity of a giraffe, the first roan was giving us directions with its expressive ears, but it didn't seem to make up its mind. I saw only 2 roans last year, and each at separate occasions and area, and on its own. But on this trip, the first roan was the start of rollcall of some 25-30 roans - just on the first day. that's almost half of the estimated 60 roans that are in Tswalu! they sure rolled out the red carpet for my OH. turn to the right... or actually drive to your left or maybe it's neither Roans at the Tswalu waterhole and more roans during the evening game drive... a group of four roans
  3. 26 likes
    with the sun showing its face on the other side of the round planet earth, Ben took out the spotlight. Kosie and Ben could hear our whispers and feel our breaths on them to deliver what we were silently saying to Tswalu. aardvark aardvark aardvark. Ben suddenly jerked the spotlight. I had no idea what he was doing, perhaps the spotlight went kaput and he was shaking it vigorously to get it working again. But Kosie knew. He said aardvark! OMG OMG, where where? there There. well the grass was knee high and the light was so low, i could just make grass rustling. kosie had stopped the car. he took a couple of minutes before he said come on let's go on foot. Quietly. we quickly got down - my OH was grappling with his DSLR and I was grappling this new heavy Sony thingie. and struggling with the equipment, we also had to watch where our feet were going to avoid stepping on branches (failed), and try to keep up with Kosie (fail) and still looked where that elusive creature was heading (Big Fail). The aardvark heard us and zoomed so fast into its den. Kosie went close to the hole and told us to listen to the poor creature trying to claw its way in the hole far far away from us. I Saw My AARDVARK!! okay. it was blurry and half the time I was seeing grasses then the animal. But i saw its shape - it was bigger than I expected - ears like rabbit but I couldn't see its face clearly. and all i got were two blurry photos which I will claim to be works of modern art (one of which is above). back into the truck we went. what else could we see tonight? brown hyena i breathed. aardwolf, my OH breathed. the spotlight had other ideas. it konked out. Ben spent about 5 minutes fingering and tweaking it, and viola! it worked. and 5 minutes later he was doing the jerky thing again. an Aardwolf. this time round, my filming of the aardwolf was way better than the last time.
  4. 23 likes
    Monday 11th September Arrived in Kigali at 8.15pm and was met by Martin who was to be our driver and guide for the duration of our trip. He took us straight to the Hotel des Mille Collines for our overnight stay. Kigali at night from our hotel room. Tuesday 12th September Breakfast on the terrace at the Mille Collines lived up to it’s reputation and we had a very relaxing time and some very good food before being picked up by Martin at 7.45am for the start of our Congo adventure. Martin is Congolese and lives in Goma and knows this part of Congo like the back of his hand. The terrace at the Mille Collines We followed the main RN1 road south west of Kigali passing the many crop fields of sweet potato, sugar cane, bananas, rice and farmed fish ponds. Rice fields at Gitarama. The terraced crop fields that Rwanda is famous for. As we approached Nyungwe Forest the big tea plantations started to appear. Driving through the forest we were hit by a massive rainstorm, so heavy that Martin decided to stop driving for a while and we waited for it to ease off. This slowed us down a bit so we only reached the border with DRC at 1.30pm. In better conditions this drive can probably be done in 4-4.5 hrs. View of Bukavu, DRC from the road to the border crossing. DRC has 2 main border points with Rwanda. A ‘dry’ one at the new One-Stop border post at Goma and a ‘wet’ one here at Cyangugu, (as explained by Martin). If you are wondering about the ‘wet’ bit, the crossing into DRC is actually a bridge over the river running from Lake Kivu. This is a picture of the nice new blue steel bridge. This, however, is a very sneaky phone shot (no pictures allowed at the border) of the extremely rickety wooden bridge next to it that is used instead!! The vertical slats you can see have been nailed to the horizontal ones for a bit of extra support – comforting to know or possibly not when you also find out that this is the main entry point for all commercial traffic, ie. Big, heavy trucks, into South Kivu from Rwanda. Martin’s theory is that they will start using the new bridge when the wooden one finally gives way! Not wanting to be the straw on that camel’s back we whizzed across quick. Back to the border formalities. Everywhere was busy and fairly chaotic looking as is usual at an African land border but this was actually a very easy crossing. First we queued at the small building on the Rwandan side to get our exit stamps, this only took about 20 mins. Then on the other side of that bridge we parked up and Martin took us to a much more rustic hut that was the DRC border post. This time Martin took our passports and went into the very small office to handle things for us. Prior to our trip Steppes had organised our visa application forms and Martin had copies of these. The visa for UK tourists is $100 each. We were never asked for our Yellow Fever certs although you are advised that these are required. While we were waiting for him a chap came up to us asking why and where we were visiting, he had thought we were probably aid workers as most white people at the border are, it turns out. He was most pleased we were actually tourists and going to be visiting Kahuzi-Biega. He was a security consultant seeing a few researchers through the border. He has also been involved in security in Kahuzi-Biega and was keen to tell us how good the ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) guys are and how well they are operating the tourist section of the Park. By now, Martin had reappeared with our passports and we were on our way. This didn’t take much more than about 20 mins either.
  5. 23 likes
    So the red-chested korhaan sneaked its way into the previous roan post! we saw a lot of the red-chested korhaans on the reserve. and other species we saw during the drive - oryx (first for my OH), giraffe, the wildebeest which was hanging out with a group of 4 roans, red hartebeests, and shy and skittish elands. as the sun slipped below the horizon the shy elands peeked out at us.
  6. 20 likes
    My OH managed to snare a straight 5-night stay a month and a half before he booked, paid up in full and confirmed his trip to Tswalu. It's unheard of for Tswalu to have such a long stretch of available nights but he had to wait for a couple of weeks before a 3-night availability became a 5-night, so he could take advantage of the stay 5, pay 4. I jumped on his trip a week before the trip after results of my various dogs' medical tests came back not that positive but not too negative either. This was his trip, and I was more than happy to be there for the ride, and to travel with him after two years' of having separate holidays. This is my second visit to Tswalu after I had stayed 5 nights in May last year. I'll be very sparse with text this report since I've said most of what I felt in the first TR (http://safaritalk.net/topic/16403-all-creatures-small-and-beautiful-tswalu-cape-of-good-hope-np/#comment-199997) Although I saw many of Tswalu's nocturnal specialities in May last year, the aardvark eluded me. I was back to stalk the mysterious creature - will it show up? a clue....
  7. 17 likes
    The next morning we were promptly at the breakfast table at 6am. We had requested Kosie for an earlier start than 7am as we wanted to catch the first light. I think Kosie wasn't convinced initially that going out half an hour earlier would make a difference but by the second day, he was fully on board with our thoughts (more on that later). So Kosie had to ask the staff to prepare the breakfast half hour earlier, but you would never know the difference. AN entire spread of muffins, muesli with yoghurt, yummy pastries, cheese platter, energy drinks (my favourite being the apple, ginger, celery and beetroot i think) was always laid out by 6am. The other thing we requested was packed breakfast in the bush everyday so that we didn't need to rush back for breakfast/brunch. we would always return in time for lunch at 11+, except for the day we left when we returned for breakfast. When we arrived in Tswalu, the cold spells were almost over, spring was in the air, and the hot front blew in. Just our luck that we brought the hot climate of our tropical country along to Tswalu. that week we were there, the mercury rose to as high as 35 degrees centigrade, which was a bummer as most of the animals were tucked under shade by 10am. so perhaps leaving earlier was the right call after all. giraffes - early risers
  8. 16 likes
    Benjamin an update. We did meet with Benjamin, an emotional time for all of us. Here is a photo of the three of us, with Benjamin's Teaching Diploma. Very proud of him. Dave
  9. 16 likes
    Each time we set out on a game drive, Kosie would set a target of a species we wanted to see. During brunch the day before, two friends of mine who happened to be at the lodge at the same time, had spent quality time with a cheetah and her cub. They were on foot and got fairly close to the cheetah as their guide had spent time with the cat. So of course we narrated that to Kosie, who then had to take us to find the cheetahs! Poor guides, but such challenges pay off when we find the animals. we started from another waterhole. we sat in the vehicle while Kosie and Ben searched along the waterhole and around the area for fresh signs of the cats. they came back rather disappointed but heard on the radio that another guide with the gentleman guest had found fresh tracks in the next block. we caught up with them and all the guides and trackers were on the ground trying to figure out where the cheetahs went. the mum cheetah seemed intent on losing us as their tracks went up and down the roads. The cheetah mum had had two cubs but very recently had lost one cub. Kosie thought she might be searching for the lost cub. which made me feel rather sad, and that had meant that the mum and cub had not eaten and were very lean. Finally, they saw the freshest tracks crossing into the block where the waterhole was. so we headed back. as we neared the waterhole, i glanced towards some bushes and swore that that log looked very much like a cheetah lying prone on the ground. I hesitated but finally told Kosie and sure enough the mum cheetah was stretched out and the cub with a round belly was walking back to the mum. there was a springbok carcass by the side. The mum had just hunted! we missed the hunt and kill only by a few minutes as Kosie and Ben were just in that very area and saw no signs. But we didn't regret not seeing the kill. I'm not sure if i could bear watching it. just so lovely watching the mum grooming the cub and taking good care of the cub. a perfect end to a a lovely day.
  10. 16 likes
    It was a morning of cats as we left to go to a waterhole where two lionesses were sighted. the surprise though was these two felines were from the northern pride, and were trespassing in the southern pride's territory. these two females were massive - really mascular and bulked up. in fact, one of the females has an infamous reputation as a really grumpy cat and often snarled when the vehicles went too close for her liking. Today though, she was preoccupied. she vanished beyond a ridge while her sister laid down and waited. then she reappeared, as if she was searching for something. she walked very close to our vehicle but ignored us (phew). The two males were not that far away, and no one had seen the southern pride yet, but the fear was that these two females could kill young cubs of the southern pride. happily that didn't happen. slurp... what's for breakfast?
  11. 16 likes
    taking a leisurely loop, we went in search of the lions in the eastern section. Tswalu is a fenced reserve and in the middle, split by a public road, the western section (where the lodges are) and the eastern section is further divided by fences. The fences on the eastern section is to fence in the largest predators - the lions - so that the valuable antelopes particularly sables which are bred in Tswalu are protected. Ben locked the gate behind us when we entered the eastern side, behind another vehicle with a gentleman guest. the rangers were scouring the ground as pugmarks of male lions were all over the section. to cover all ground, the other vehicle headed to the right while we headed to the centre. luck stayed on our side as Ben and Kosie found the lion tracks back on our route. we followed the tracks for quite a distance, when suddenly Kosie pulled over. the male cats were right in front of us. yay! both pride males - gorgeous specimens in their prime and well toned and healthy with their luscious black manes. not that they allowed us to admire in their full glories as both males gave us the African salutes and 5 minutes later, they were flattened in the long grasses. At least we saw them standing and walking! the other guests who came to see them reported they were still flat till the evening. i saw them in my last trip but they were resolutely horizontal at that time. at one point, one of them got up and started sniffing the air, staring into the distance and hearing something we couldn't hear or see. but then flat he went again.
  12. 16 likes
    We left Mata Mata to make the 120km back to the park gate at Twee Rivieren, once again I couldn´t resist to take a few pictures of the road and the landscape. Soon after leaving Mata Mata a car made us signs with the headlights and the very gentle couple inside told us that there was a cheetah moving along the left side of the road 3,1km from where we were (perfectly detailed information), we thanked them and moved away at 50km/h and, right according to the information, there it was, close to the road and moving south, this beautiful cheetah that we found out in another forum that is a female known as Corinne. Gorgeous animal, really athletic and elegant ,a true sprinter. There was only another car nearby (then another one after we warned another family with our headlights) and we watch and slowly moved along Corinne, who had a goal, a herd of springboks grazing several hundreds of meters ahead, in the middle of the river bed. Corinne´s task wasn´t an easy one, there was a lot of open terrain between her and the herd so she moved slowly, trying to blend with the grass Then she sat for a bit to assess the situation And decided to cross to the other bank, to the dune, but that had to be done in the open By then the springboks were still quite far from Corinne but either they spotted her or sensed that there was danger because one of them was a little apart from the others, with it´s head up in Corinne´s direction, without moving. In the meantime we had a great (although brief) moment when we were watching Corinne already in the dune and in the river bed a scrub hare passed running for it´s life with two jackals running behind it, suddenly the hare turned to the dune and the jackals didn´t even notice that and kept running, but it was too quick so we don´t have pictures of that pursuit. By then Corinne was moving along the dune, as stealthy as possible. From time to time we lost her sight, then saw her again, until she sat, then laid down, and stopped moving. We waited for a good while but it became clear that there was probably going to be some action but it was going to take time, Corinne was still far from the springboks and we had all the Auob road ahead of us, if we were staying at Mata Mata we would have return later but it wasn´t the case so we had to leave the scene. It was, nevertheless, one of the best moments of the trip.
  13. 15 likes
    The road from the border crossing leads straight into Bukavu. Bukavu is the capital city of South Kivu province. It sits along the southern coastline of Lake Kivu with it’s five peninsulas jutting out into the lake. The buildings of the city are built up from the lakeside and into the surrounding hills. It was obviously once a very beautiful place with it’s many art deco buildings and even now still has bags of character and colour. However, the road infrastructure has disintegrated and is now virtually non-existent with everywhere in a bad state of disrepair. Traffic is very busy and driving here is definitely not for the faint-hearted – imagine Delhi at rush hour but without any roads or pavements. Horns are blaring constantly and the motorbike is king. In order to make any headway Martin just drove into gaps that weren’t there and then you would find that a motorbike had followed in next to you. I have no idea how we didn’t become one big pile up of vehicles. It was quite an experience – and actually great fun (for us at least)! After a while we trundled down a little side street, through some metal gates and into the oasis of calm and greenery that is the Orchids Safari Club. We were in room 1 which was at one end of a line of ground floor rooms with terraces that look directly out onto the lake. There is just a small strip of grass between the end of the tiled terrace and the steep slope down to the lake and great views across to part of the city and the next peninsula. Here are some pictures showing the hotel room and gardens. Whoops, just noticed me in the mirror. The lake at the end of our terrace. The lovely hotel gardens. View of a lake jetty and Bukavu.
  14. 15 likes
    Day 4 - Our last day at Ol Pejeta First we saw this bird. Our guide, who is not that good in identification of birds thought it was a Tawny Eagle. But, it kind of looks different. Then Cape Bull Then there were a group of photogenic Waterbucks Then I spotted what we came here for - a Black Rhino. I am glad we saw it, as it would be very difficult to see this in Mara Looks like a significant cut on the side? Then we went looking for the White Rhino which are a little easier to find... Then our driver guide knew of a location where a few elephants have been frequenting and we went there Then a mother, child Reticulated Giraffe Now I know these Helmeted Guinea Fowl are hard to photograph...they run away too quickly. Pair of Grey-Crowned Cranes A Zebra having a dust bath Then we saw this Waterbuck, and had to post it due it's pose Then we went into an area with dense vegetation. I think we were looking for big cats. We found this group of Cape Bulls. They were scattered around and then this light aircraft made a few low flying passes disturbing the group. I think they were filming them. Then the buffalo all grouped together and formed this defensive shield. It was awesome to see. We did not find the big cats. That's what Mara is for anyways... Yellow-necked Spurfowl lastly we saw this Tawny Eagle Then we went back to Sweetwater Tented Camp There were a few birds there Speke's Weaver And the nest it's building This looks like the White-billed Go-away-bird but the beak is yellow here ? A superb starling There is a water hole and the giraffe we saw earlier came for a sip of water. We had an incredible time. Ol pejeta conservancy was superb. I am so glad we got to see both types of rhino, which is what we came here for... Sweetwater Tented camp facilities are great, food was fine as well. However, we found a number of large thick millipedes on the floor, wall and even the ceiling above our bed. My wife hates crawling bugs and it wasn't good finding so many. I am not a fan of waking up to them on ceilings either. Although it's an excellent facility, we will not be going back.
  15. 15 likes
    Day 3 - Fly/Drive from Amboseli to Ol Pejeta and Evening Game drive. We flew from Amboseli to Nairobi There was a collection of bones on the side of the airport We drove from Nairobi to Ol pejeta conservancy Nairobi Traffic Open stalls like these were a common site Street corner Boutique Billboard sign Butcher/Grill...how convenient. The Forgotten? The road to Ol pejeta were all in great shape. It was eye opening to take a little peak into a small slice of rural Kenyan life through the windows of a fast moving vehicle. Our vehicle parked at Ol Pejeta conservancy entrance We saw the usual antelopes and zebras etc. during our evening game drive. Can you spot all four birds around the Cape Bull? As we were driving we saw a group of 6 vehicles. Must be a good sighting...this is what we saw with my 500mm lens We waited for a few minutes and five of the six vehicles left...the lioness wasn't moving. Our Driver/Guide Joseph suggested we should wait as she may decide to move once the crowd disappeared (He works for Amali Safari but was hired by All seasons to take us around....we had requested a Land rover for just the two of us and we loved the privacy)...we waited...I'm sure all three of us were muttering, please get up! pleaaase get up!!!...after about 5 minutes she did this... AWESOME!!!...Now if only she turned towards the camera Hole smokes!!! she actually looked at us!!!...now, could she possibly get up??? Wow!...what a sight it was....please!, Please!!, Pleaaaase!!! walk towards us...she again obliged and walked just feets away from our vehicle...needless to say we were ecstatic and our hearts were pounding out of our chest...it was unbelievable! After that long majestic walk, She disappeared behind some trees...as we waited for her to come out of the bushes, we saw another lioness and soon she was moving towards the pathway as well and Jospeh drove ahead of her and parked the vehicle. For the first time in our lives, a lion in the wild, just a few feet away from us looked right into our eyes...what a feeling!!! She stepped aside and surveyed her Kingdom Then she walked by us and walked back into the bushes... We had finally seen a big cat in the wild for the first time ever...and it was incredible!!! By the end of the trip, we will see so many more. One of them would do something very unique on Day 9, which they rarely ever do. Don't worry she did not kill a Leopard or Cheetah. We spent the rest of the evening in a quite area with no one else but just a group of Zebras and Impalas...it was serene. I picked Ol Pejeta for the Rhino. Hopefully we will see one tomorrow. We did not want to see any caged animals, so we skipped those options.
  16. 15 likes
    Day 2 - Final part Masai Giraffe Baboon Black-Faced Vervet Monkey There wasn't much crowd in Amboseli, this was probably the most Cape Buffalo I have to include more elephants...after all, that's why I came to Amboseli. Masai cattle grazing amongst wildlife Many elephants in the water eating the wet vegetation...chose this cutie to post We headed back to Amboseli Serena before sunset. We loved it here...can't beat seeing these lovely animals as we sat and enjoyed some cold beer. My wife took these pictures as I was clicking away. Elephants and us enjoying the sunset After sunset...1.2 sec exposure with camera held by hand on top of on an uneven rock wall. Amboseli Conclusion: We absolutely loved it here. We came for the elephants and wasn't disappointed. We saw tons of them and they even posed well for the camera. Kili's peak was barely visible that first evening, but with the dense haze I could not take any good pictures. We were surprised to see not that many vehicles out there, which was a pleasant surprise. Amboseli serena was superb, food was fine too. Highly recommended.
  17. 15 likes
    In the afternoon we spotted this guy quietly sitting under a bush out on the plains. We spent a considerable amount of time with him as he strolled towards a distant lugga. During sundowners I played around with some silhouettes
  18. 14 likes
    After our visit to the meerkat colony we continued on into a night game drive. It's difficult to take pictures at night but on our first time spotlighting we came across two cheetah brothers, an ostrich that had decided to bed down for the night in the road, the rear ends of a couple of brown hyenas running off, a Cape fox and some nightjars... a nice first half day at Tswalu... The next morning we headed to the large block of the reserve where two lion prides lay claim to the territory...I was stunned at the scenery. The red of the Kalahari sand, the Korannaburg Mountains, and the seemingly endless horizon makes for one of the most beautiful landscapes in Africa. And to see the pride of lions walking along the road following them through the bush was a remarkable experience.
  19. 14 likes
    after dinner, we followed Wendy to track her charges. she names her charges, which are tagged, by numbers as all scientists do, but one of the favourites and more accomodating is Charlie, whom I had met last year. This time, Charlie had roamed far from his usual den but still no less unfriendly. By the time we saw him, the sun had set and it was pitch dark. the photos were taken by my OH. the magical little dragon was on the go for juicy ants and zig-zagging around, at one time fooling wendy he was heading in the direction of his favourite den.
  20. 14 likes
    Last year, I was in Room 5, next to the main hall and I had great views of species walking to and from the waterhole. this year we were in Room 1, the room furthest away from the main hall. we still saw some wildlife from inside the room (rather than from the terrace as the smaller ones got nervous when we were out there). these were from the first day since I haven't loaded the pix from the other days. Mountain reedbucks, which scuttled when they heard us rushing to the windows for a shot. I initially thought they were duikers a handsome roan strolling to the waters a ground squirrel enjoying his tidbit
  21. 14 likes
    A brunch had been organised for all the guests at a venue that was built by the previous owners for dining events. Lodged against the cliff of a hillside, it offered spectacular views of the beautiful semi-arid landscapes. in between, we took long meanders. As I had pre-warned my OH, sometimes you could drive and see an antelope or two, and sometimes you don't see much. but we did see some animals here and there, and one of the more interesting sightings was a group of elands. In Tswalu, elands do not stop for you. perish the thought of taking a shot of them posing nicely for you. But a creche of young adults with a handful of adult minders was curious about us. They ran towards us, stopped at a distance, studied us, and decided we weren't worth a longer look. we also stopped at a waterhole for a coffee prior to the brunch. the mammals stopped coming in when they saw us, but the birds were thirsty.
  22. 14 likes
    Day 2 - Part 3 Some more from Amboseli Hippo These hyenas were playing with a piece of bone One more from the previous part Egyptian Goose Amboseli Landscape Black-winged Stilt ? Egret Egret and African Spoonbill Ostrich These are truly ugly...The Marabou Stork.
  23. 14 likes
    Day 2 - Part 1 My computer has come to a stand still....so, I'll post some of the elephants for now as part 1 and continue later.
  24. 14 likes
    Day 2 After an early morning wake up followed by coffee, rusks and some porridge, we were off on our morning drive. After all the excitement of yesterday, today seemed a little subdued. But we were in for surprise. Just 15 minutes into the drive, we ran into the wild dogs. It was still dark and they were mobile. They had puppies with them, probably moving their den as a result of yesterday's interaction with the "dark" pack. Dog looks keenly into the bush There were quite nervous and moving fast. We left them in peace and moved on. Soon we found the tracks of the 2 male lions that we had seen last night. We followed the tracks for a while but soon lost them in thick bush. After driving around for a while, Josh found tracks of a male and a female leopard. Francolins in the nearby bush were going berserk. Josh was quite certain that the leopards were around. While Brain moved ahead with the other vehicle, we decided to stick around make some intensive search. The search soon yielded fruit. We found this guy on the move. He was quite a big guy and was very relaxed. But he was on the move. Soon we caught a glimpse of what he was doing. There was a female leopard that he was following! A mating pair. Unfortunately, the female was very skittish and was not happy with our presence. We tried to follow them, but soon they disappeared in thick bush. After losing them, we found a family of elephants walking through tall grass. The family had a really tiny calf with them. All of a sudden, they stopped in their tracks and started smelling the air. They were quite alert and didn't look too pleased. We soon found out the cause of their discomfort. A pair of wild dogs! They appeared to be from the same "pale" pack and were out on a hunt. There were quite a few impalas around. We waited with baited breath to see if they would be successful in their endeavor. But the impalas spotted them and ran off, snorting loudly as they went. The grass was quite long and the ground was covered with wild sage bush. So tracking dogs was very difficult. We soon lost them. we found a few interesting birds on our way. A little bee eater with dragonfly kill An African Hoopoe A sunbird (don't know which) A bateleur eagle Soon it was getting hot. We returned back to the camp for brunch and siesta.
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    Even the Sundowners are “up”, in this case, as the top of this rock seen here in front of me, it was about a slow 20+ min step, climb, scramble to the top Only problem for me was that I had worn my prescription Sunglasses up, of course it was pretty well dark by the time we came down and I hadn’t bought my regular glasses up, so I had to scamble back down in the dark in my Sunglasses. Luckily we had decided on a “single” Gin, rather than the “double” on offer at the top. The Dining Room is open and a small bird bath is busy all day with thirsty little birds Back in Windhoek, car dropped off, us dropped off at Villa Violet, we decided we’d have a very early dinner and walk up to Joe's Beerhouse, early was a good idea, it was about 15 mins walk and a bit seedy at that, certainly would not have done it in the dark. The food was OK, that’s it I think. I spent my wait-time in the morning enjoying villa Violets garden visitors. Next morning, our Guide arrived a bit later than expected to pick us up, but then we were on our way to Palmwag, hubby sat in the front with George our Guide, and me in the back. We kept it like that for the trip as it suited both of us. I’ll say upfront , I loved Palmwag (except for the crummy room). The Conservancy is massive and we were lucky enough to be able to spend 2 full days out there, the first full day we did a “Game Drive” and the second, an all day “Rhino Tracking “ day. We had the same Palmwag Guide, Stan, on both days and trust me when I tell you, you really need to know how to drive out here and Stan sure did. Boy do those vehicle take a hammering. On our first Drive, our Guide told us to look at it as “a Drive to enjoy the scenery, if you see any Wildlife, its a bonus”. Overall we didn't do too bad
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    The afternoon game drive we set out to find cheetahs...we found the two cheetah brothers working the dune ridge looking for potential prey. As with so much of Tswalu, it sets up for spectacular silhouettes against the backdrop of the Kalahari skies. It is a stunning environment. Later we searched some thick bush for a leopard unsuccessfully though it's tracks crossed the trackers' tracks a couple of times...a game of cat and mouse...
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    The next morning we set out to get our pangolin! I have to hand it to Jonas our tracker and Moses our guide. They found the fresh tracks of a pangolin in the soft Kalahari sand and we got out of the land rover and began following its rambling, circling patterns into the bush.....an agitated wildebeest letting out a periodic snort of disapproval with our presence. For an hour we followed the tracks---mind you, I was looking at the ground but to the untrained eye it looked like a car wreck of antelope tracks of all shapes and sizes...how they are able to read the bush so well like a road map is one of those impressive and amazing things about Africans... we found the hole it had dug to nap during the heat of the day covered in fresh dirt....we would return that night to check on him/her... I may be getting my days confused but we set out to find White Rhino on the lion side and found three trotting about in thick bush but I was unable to get a clear picture of them...they rarely see vehicles I was told and often ran from the land rover...on our way back to camp we came across a long black snake in the road. Moses identified it as a mole snake. it scooted off into the bush and Jonas jumped down from his spotter's chair to investigate. They thought it moved rather slowly and as Jonas walked back to the vehicle another snake (a cape cobra) wriggled into the bush in the opposite direction. This gave everyone a start as Jonas likely jumped down very close to the cobra. They figured that the cobra had bitten the mole snake and had planned to eat it as they prey on other snakes...yikes! We also came across a napping owl which had taken liberties with a sociable weavers' nest...
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    The next morning we set out to find black rhino, in particular, a relaxed mother and calf rather than a couple grumpier ones recently encountered...along the way we crested a dune ridge and watched an enormous herd of eland (150?) on the run. It's an impressive scene for sure. In the meantime, there was a health emergency with one of the trackers in another vehicle so we took on two extra passengers as the guide attended to the emergency. The rhinos were fantastic---the Black Rhino in particular is my favorite. The mother gave us a mock charge just so we'd keep our distance and we had a nice view as they browsed the scrub and then laid down for a nap. Not before the baby implored its mom to get up
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    Tswalu has so many activities you can do, almost too many to list: horseback riding, there's a spa, wine tastings, heli rides, boma dinners, you name it but I was pretty focused on the wildlife and eschewed most of those activities. We did book the sleep out deck to spend a night star gazing...my impression was that this time of year, clear skies were all but guaranteed but that's not exactly how it turned out. But I'm getting ahead of myself...first came the afternoon drive and I believe we were on the trail of the cheetahs but we came across the pack of wild dogs and were waylaid. The pups were playing and the adults resting when some drama began to unfold. A herd of buffalo began to move in to drink at the bore hole, one or two of the dogs held their ground if not downright taunted them. This attracted a group of buffalo to pursue the dogs...there was a stare down, a chase, the dogs then turned the tables and took off after the stampeding buffaloes...it was all quite comical since the dogs really posed no danger to the herd. There was the possibility the buffaloes might harm the pups, however...
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    Finally, one which I will cherish. and a couple of videos: a collage: meerkats: the kills
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    we had to time the visit to the meerkats to coincide with the sunlight falling on their dens. it was a bit of a cloudy day so we didn't have the beautiful golden light to bring out their golden hues and fuzzy hair. It was still no less entertaining to enjoy the tiny cousins of the weasels including time spent walking with them part way as they foraged and hunted. for a spree of meerkats waking up, housecleaning, grooming, bonding, sunning, taking shut-eyes, moving out, checking out potential "prey", sheltering and foraging.....
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    Day 7 (Mara Reserve) - Evening Drive Prior to the evening drive, a few shots from the Serena lodge Hyrax Birds It was raining and our evening game drive was delayed by about 20 minutes...cutting into our Leopard search time. We spotted these sleeping lions very far away Giraffes We went to a location where the driver/guide has seen a Leopard a few months ago. We inched through the area back and forth and couldn't spot any. Now it's about 6pm. We went back to the main road. We heard from a driver passing by of a Leopard sighting not too far off, ....couldn't believe our luck....we sped towards it. On the last day of our stay at the Reserve, after 6pm we spotted our first leopard Soon followed by another The light was very low. For the rest, I had to increase iso to 3200 and still was barely getting shutter speeds of 1/250 at times dropping to 1/125 at 500mm. Surprised how well the gear held up. We were so enamored by the pair, I am going to post quite a few images. Then they approached closer to our vehicle, crossed right in front and disappeared on to the other side On our way back, we spotted those sleeping lions, barely waking up We have one more morning drive in the Reserve and then onto Porini Lion Camp. Day 8 will be a Lion day....
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    Day1: We stayed at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi for our first night's stay. It was a great facility and the breakfast was superb Outskirts of Nairobi Unpaved road into Amboseli Park This guy was sitting outside my room at Amboseli Serena Our evening drive We saw tons of Wildebeest, Zebras, various antelopes and of course elephants. Sunset images of ... Elephants Wildebeest Zebras I promise, Day 2 will have the more conventional animal pictures Kenya (1 of 1)-2.tif
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    The next day, more of the same, 0530 breakfast, into the vehicle with our Guide Stan and a Ranger from the Torra Convservancy, and we were joined by another couple who were camping at Palmwag. We join with another vehicle who have 2 guests, so six of us all up. Rhino tracks are located early and the Trackers head off on foot to find the animal . In the meantime we trundle off...why you wouldn't bring your own vehicle out here At 0800hrs we find our targets and we’re really in luck. Our prize is a Male, Female and their 3yr old Calf. We stop, get a few instructions, namely "be quiet", and then walk on foot, silently toward them. This in itself was a challenge, I found myself stumbling over those rocks, clunk, clunk. I didn’t want to be the one a) to fall over b)cause a Rhino charge c)cause them to run away and never return! We then stop, what seemed to me a very short distance from them and just watch…a very special 20 odd minutes or so. At one point the Guides wave for us to squat quietly, the Rhino seem to know we are there, all looking in our direction, sniffing, ears flicking back and forth. “No sound” we are told, if we frighten them they will bolt and not be seen again. The shame of causing that. For such hulking big things, their defences are pretty poor really. Brute force is useless against a shotgun. Every time I see a Rhino, I think of the thrill of just seeing them everywhere, as in days long gone, thundering along, like the opening scenes of Hatari. From there we drove to our lunch stop. This place is just sooo big, that meant at least two plus hours drive away, when Stan said it was over and around the Mountains, he meant just that, you travel at a slow pace out here We got there eventually and the Ranger told us how his job was to ID each Rhino he saw. Its all done with “ear notches”, our Male went by the name “Speedy”, glad I didn’t know that as I stood in front of him. We had a terrific view for Lunch, this Bull grazing nearby If you look closely at the next photo, middle, you can see a couple of Elephants walking up the mountain, The rest of the Herd was near the top. Each day they go up, each evening they come down... We were lucky enough to come across another Rhino in the afternoon, the Ranger had to go and identify him, so we were asked if we wanted to walk out there as well, “hell yeah” we all said. Although as we got closer it was obvious we were very exposed this time, flat, open ground with no where to run ( ha, ha) I ducked behind a lone Euphorbia as the Rhino strolled toward us, still seemingly oblivious to our presence. And then we rocked, rolled, tilted left, right, up and down as our tougher than tough Toyota took us home in Stans capable hands. What a brilliant couple of days we’d had here at Palmwag.
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    After lunch we proceeded to our camp in Moremi. It took a lot of driving. There was a lot of water around and so were the animals. We made stops to watch a family of elephants, some zebras and some red lechwes- A new species for me. Finally we reached our camp by 3 pm. The tents were ready. We quickly freshened up and re assembled in the dining tent for some tea and delicious cake and left for evening game drive. It was already 5pm and we had to be back by 6:30. Not too far away from the camp, Brian found tracks of a leopard. We were in the process of tracking the big cat when we received a call on the radio from Basha, Brian's handyman in the camp. "Wild dogs just passed through the camp". We hastened back towards the camp. Suddenly as we took a turn, there they were on the road. They were quite pale in colour. We followed them to an open area. They were behaving a little strange. Initially we thought they were out on a hunt. But instead of spreading out, they were close together and literally had their noses to the ground. Josh was speculating what they were upto. The dogs were on our right... Suddenly they were all alert and looking towards our left. As I looked towards left, a second pack of about 10-12 dogs rushed in from our left. All the hell broke loose. There were dogs all around us, chasing each other with twittering and excitement. Dust was flying through the air. It was an incredible sight! I managed to click a few pictures in the dying late evening light (the sun had already set). D500 worked admirably, locking focus more often than not. Dogs chasing each other. Wild dog in an all out pursuit Greyhound ? It was over within a few minutes as one pack managed to chase off the other. What an incredible start to our safari! First day, first game drive!! Couldn't even have wished for this!
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    Moses and Jonas would stop at nothing to try and spot wildlife, sometimes scaling up small hills or mountains to scan the bush with binocs. I'm already losing track of the days but I believe the next morning we went back to the meerkat colony which was hard to get enough of...the first visit we saw them at the close of the day. Gathering at the den, cuddling and grooming each other. This time we saw them after emerging from the den, hungry and spreading out in all directions churring and frantically digging for grubs and scorpions. I've lost a little track of my days but the bottom line is that we booked five nights and we were facing our last afternoon/evening game drive and still no aardvark. I had kidded with the staff that if they could find an active aardvark hole or den, they could set up a cot and I'd wait it out but the last night drive, temps chilly, we had added another cape fox and a flap necked chameleon to our list of sightings but we were striking out on aardvark. I was determined, but I wasn't sure if my travel mate was as committed lol. Long drives in the night in the cold seemed not very appealing at this point. So off we set on the last afternoon drive about 4:30P, Aardvarks are frequently seen at Tswalu in the winter months cheating the last rays of sunlight as the night time temps plunge, Otherwise, an aardvark is nocturnal and extremely difficult to lay eyes on...in fact, some safari guides have spent decades in the bush, seen evidence of aardvark activity all around but never actually spotted one...so this was the last chance and we needed to be prepared to go deep into the night if necessary and I was but it was with elation that I can report we had been searching for about 20 minutes before Moses and Jonas spotted that great domed back scurrying around in broad daylight! They are particularly skittish, so we killed the engine and used our downwind position and various bush cover to sneak ever closer to this amazing animal. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour watching it dig for food, sniff the air, at some point it became aware of our presence but hadn't made visual contact. We were tolerated for a good while until we weren't and in a quick hurry scuttled off . We cracked open our sundowners and laughed and joked with Jonas and Moses....we didn't need to see another thing. Total satisfaction!
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    We returned to the pangolin hole at dusk prepared to wait. We cut the engine and stayed quiet. Jonas exited the land rover and quietly approached the hole when he heard scratching---the pangolin was emerging!!! Now a pangolin can do a lot of things...it can come out just after dark, or it can decide it's perfectly comfortable in there and sleep through the night...so we waited until the pangolin was good and out of his hole before we risked turning on a light. Moses and Jonas did not see that it had been tagged previously and so alerted the pangolin research team so soon we were joined by an expert complete with a weight scale and various measuring devices. It turns out the pangolin had been marked before but had not been seen in two years. Such an amazing creature and what a privilege to see in the wild! I was feeling quite lucky!
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    The afternoon game drive sent us to the lion side to find the two black maned Kalahari lion males that dominate the two prides...we found them lazing about...checking to see if the females were in heat. In other words, being lions...
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    As night fell, clouds gathered. Heat lightning lit up the horizons and thunder rolled. I thought we were in the desert! The sleep out deck is pretty cool sitting atop a dune ridge looking out over the plains below. Needless to say the food is incredible and there's a nice fire in the pit. My determination to sleep out under the stars (or clouds as fate would have it) would not be deterred by a little lightning and thunder...but then the drops began to fall and we moved the beds under the thatch...three times we did this! So the starry night turned into a lightning show with a lot of fake outs with regard to rain---they call them dry storms. I would say it was a bit buggier than I thought it would be but perhaps that was because of the unusual weather...We had no sooner settled in and were about to dig into dinner than our walkie talkie began to ring---or was it a phone? At any rate, a leopard had been spotted near the stables and Moses and Jonas called to see if we wanted to see it---of course we did!!! We raced like banshees to get there---I guessed that a leopard was one of the species most difficult to see at Tswalu. When we arrived, we found the leopard napping in a camel thorn tree head sort of hidden, paws hanging down.
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    They sort of choose an animal to try to look for on each outing: twice we visited the habituated meerkat colony during our stay and I could spend hours watching them. They are tireless and entertaining, trilling and digging for scorpions. Taking turns as the sentinel always on watch duty for predators
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    a few species that we stopped for a minute in our search in vain for the perfect photos.
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    The afternoon drive was a leisurely roundabout route to the west to see if we could find a rhino. we had time to kill as we were meeting Wendy, the pangolin researcher, for a bush dinner. She's wrapping up her research with a doctorate thess (way to go, Gal!) and it was good to meet up with her again. Finally we saw buffaloes - the first and only time we saw them in the reserve. There are only very few buffaloes in Tswalu which were taken in by the reserve from neighbouring farms. I can't recall the reason why the farms were giving them away. a pan of sorts. last year the reserve had put salt licks here and that attracted a horde of grazers and browsers. This September, there were no licks but the animals sought refuge in the shade of a beautiful tree instead. an oryx and oryx babies which looked like mini roans!! they were adorable.
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    other wildlife seen during the morning drive:
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    more meerkat mania! well, the truth is that we took dozens of photos and it'd be such a waste not to enjoy the good ones (dumped loads of bad ones too!).
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    we were out at around just before 4pm. this time, several guests headed out before us. the afternoon delights at tea were such an improvement over last year. the chef has changed and this one believed in giving us loads of varieties and yummy teacakes. My favourite hands down was the fluffly light choc lamingtons, but often times, i would reject teacakes but my OH couldn't resist. the start of the drive was sedate as always was in Tswalu. one of only a few tsessebe in the reserve a female ostrich sitting on her nest. you can just make out one egg next to her neck. on the way back as the night approached, as Kosie had predicted, it was the male on the nest. but tragically the next morning both parents were gone and we found the eggs had been broken up, probably eaten by another species. one of those LBJ - little brown jobs. birdlife in tswalu isn't colourful. unlike the last time, we saw few birds of prey.
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    Last year I saw numerous hartmann's zebras down from the mountains but this time, we saw only one herd, and only a handful of plains zebras. a plains zebra waiting for us to leave the waterhole
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    We noticed not far across the plain that vultures were descending to the ground so we decided to take a look. We found hyaenas quickly cleaning up another wildebeeste carcass. With each passing minute more and more vultures were arriving at the carcass and it was a great opportunity for some vulture flight images. and a marabou stork too In no time there wasn't much left of the carcass We left the vultures with their meagre remains and headed in the direction of a wildebeeste herd milling about considering crossing a small stream. On the way there were a few buffalo. A zebra stands point guard for the wildebeeste. The wildebeeste crossed on either side of us and it was hard to know where to look. A few crossing pics. A topi joined in too. To finish off the morning I took some portrait shots. Topi Tommie Grant's Gazelle
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    Just down the road from the mating lions two Black-backed Jackals were enjoying breakfast. I have no idea what they were eating. Perhaps a hare. A tug of war ensued and the carcass split neatly in two. One jackal ran off with their portion. The other jackal stayed put. A family of Banded Mongoose were busy foraging with their sentries on duty. Unfortunately they did not spot the Leopard walking across the plain until it was too late. The leopard gave a leisurely chase when they started to run and for one of them it was all over very quickly. I presume the leopard ate the mongoose but I suspect it would be a rather smelly meal.
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    It was pretty much an all day drive to Swakopmond, through some of the most desolate, harshest terrain I’d ever seen I mean no offence, but Swakopmund is the “weirdest” place I’ve ever seen. It was planned simply as an overnighter, somewhere to breakup the drive between Sesriem and Erongo, and it served that purpose well. What was the highlight of this stopover, was our accommodation. The Desert Breeze Lodge sits on the Dunes on the outskirts of town, overlooking the now dry, Swakop riverbed. All the lovely Chalets are positioned so that laying in bed, you look over the Dunes We ate a very good Seafood dinner at the Tug restaurant, overlooking the ocean, (and the adjacent Jetty Restaurant). We parked the car immediately below the Restaurant and tipped the “ Car Attendent” $N20 to car-sit as the Carpark looked a bit “dodgy”. Next morningI woke in time to watch the Sunrise Funny, just writing this Ive remembered that when we came back from Dinner, I went to our Chalet to unlock the door, the key was a bit tricky and I was swearing at it in the dark, suddenly the door opened from the inside and some bloke stood there, I was only trying to get into the wrong room, oops. We left Swak on the B2, my scary driving moment here having to overtake a large truck carrying a Bulldozer, the pickup blade extending quite ways over the middle line. My husband was “urging” me to keep the right hand wheels on the outside yellow line and “put my foot down” as there was traffic approaching in the distance. There was a good 2 inch drop off said yellow line into the gravel. I was bloody close, within millimetres to that truck as I overtook, and also within millimetres of coming off the tarmac onto the gravel with my outside wheels. Husband also telling me “do not hit the brakes if you hit the gravel, you’ll do an anti-clockwise skid into the truck.Phew, I feel better now telling that story, free counselling. We left the B2 at Usakos onto the D1935, we then had our only real “uncomfortable” driving experience. This road passed through some “shanty towns”, we were the only tourists on the road and a couple of times men ran out at us shouting, a while later we had that experience, you know you pass a parked car with several men in it, then they overtake you, then a couple of Kms up the road they’ve stopped again, as you pass they follow….Luckily at this point we turned into the D2315 turnoff and the Erongo Gate was in front of us. Once inside the Gate we relaxed, until we saw this you’ll remember me saying my husband was a bit afraid of Elephants, actually me too, out here on our own with 45kms of dirt track to the Lodge. I was a bit relieved to see this. (As it turned out, there are no Elephants in the area at the moment, so an hours sweating for nothing.) Our Tent was as lovely, kinda Rustic Lux, and Dinner was on this Deck The next morning we did a nature walk up and over that rock. You have to be fairly fit to stay here, everything is a climb up. Tents are up steps, meals are up steps and walks are up large rocks!! The Dassies were stacked up, trying to keep warm in the morning chill

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