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About KiwiGran

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  1. Looking forward to hearing about Marrick Farm, we are booked for 3 nights there end of May. Have booked 2 night drives and a day drive, wondering what the situation is regarding tipping on these. Also booked for a full day in Mokala so looking forward to reading about your experience there. Sorry to hear about the guide, we were on the brink of booking Kalahari Safaris last year when we had to delay the trip because of a health problem.
  2. I am enjoying this topic thanks @bluebird. For me going on safari is a whole big wonderful package of which the countdown is definitely a part. I love the planning, booking the flights, contacting and booking the camps, working out the budget, how much to take for tips and so on. I read trip reports on Safari talk including all the wonderful places you all go to and I wish I had started safaris earlier but enjoy the other areas through other safaritalkers – thank you! While on countdown I watch Wild Earth Live safari and learn more about the animals and the bush, I check on the Shindzela facebook pages regularly. This time we are back to South Africa for the 4th time – I had it all booked 9 months before we go (my husband likens the countdown to a pregnancy), staying 2 nights at Buffelshoek tented camp in the Manyeleti, back to Shindzela for the 3rd time for 5 nights and then to Marrick Safari Farm for 3 nights with a day trip to Mokala arranged. At Shindzela we will be meeting up with a couple from Australia that we met there in 2016 – another wonderful part of safaris, the people you meet and share the incredible experiences with. Only 138 days to go.
  3. Taken in Kruger not far from the Orpen gate May 2016
  4. Thank you @Antee for a very reasoned reply on the hunting issue. We are going to Marrick next May. Like you I understand that the only way they will be able to do away with hunting is to support them, that is what happened in Sabi Sand once it became economic to only do eco tourism/ photosafari, that is what Timbavati are working towards. I cannot understand why anyone could even want to hunt animals like lions, elephant etc and hate the thought but I know that there are other sides to the story and I am not in a position to judge.Really enjoyed your report, Marrick has been on my bucket list for many years and am thrilled we have finally been able to book to go there.
  5. Just booked our 4th safari to South Africa. 3 nights Buffelshoek tented camp, Manyeleti, 5 nights Shindzela in Timbavati and 3 nights at Marrick with a day trip to Mokala. Now I have to wait till May 2018! Shindzela is so popular now we got the last available tent.
  6. @@penolva Late November /Early December would be OK – benefits would be possibly less tourists as it is before the Christmas and school holidays. Weather – unpredictable which is usual for NZ!! South island weather can be very different to the North – are you looking at all NZ or just the South? But generally the weather should be warming up and hopefully you would get lots of fine days. I note a lot of the birding tours are held November/December. Happy to help with any queries if you head this way.
  7. Day 6 we travelled to Bluff where we left our van and travelled across Foveaux Strait on the ferry. Foveaux Strait is often rough and stormy and we had heard of horrendous crossings but both ours were thankfully calm. Oysters are dredged in this area and all the boats we saw were accompanied by lots of Sooty Shearwater birds, amazing in their ability to skim the waves and effortlessly twist and turn. Stewart Island is a peaceful haven with only 300 permanent residents. A mecca for hikers, there are many tracks of all lengths and difficulty. The first night was kiwi spotting – a 45 minute boat ride to a peninsula, a walk through the forest in the dark with torches and out on to a beach where the kiwi come down to feed on the sand hoppers beneath the seaweed. One male kiwi was spotted and observed for nearly 20 minutes using an infra red spotlight. Here is a video and photo of the kiwi (taken by Roneta and Jayden) - not great quality as off an iphone and at night with infra red light, but gives an idea of the bird. Kiwi are not easy to see in the wild - Stewart Island is one of the best places. The Stewart Island Kiwi is the largest of the kiwi species (Apteryx australis lawyri), females weigh up to 3.9kgs, males up to 2.8kgs. They are mainly nocturnal although on Stewart Island in the cooler months can be sometimes spotted in the daytime. Kiwi The walk was too tough for my dodgy hip so I stayed behind and walked on the beach, where I spotted a black oystercatcher, and enjoyed the Kaka that comes to visit Rakiura Retreat where we stayed Kaka Black Oystercdatcher The next day we spent the morning on Ulva Island a predator free bird sanctuary. Having no native mammal predators our birds are very vulnerable to introduced species – rats, stoats, weasel, brushtail possums. Being a small island Ulva has been an ideal area to trap these species and is now free of them. A delightful 3 hours was spent quietly walking through the bush searching for birds. Bird song was abundant and we observed many species. Most of these photos were taken by Jayden, quite a difficult task with rapidly moving birds and dense foliage.. This photo shows a weka by a predator trap, these traps are set and checked regularly in case of invasion by rats. Bellbird abound and their melodious calls fill the air. Many of the birds have been relocated to the island once it was declared predator free. South Island Saddleback The Stewart Island Robin is a rewarding bird to observe, scratching up the leaf litter will bring them very close to look for exposed insects. Red and Yellow Crowned Kakariki (Parakeet) were also spotted Other birds observed were Kereru (NZ Pigeon), Tui, Fantail and Kaka Our final day was a long travel home by boat, van and plane. Stewart Island farewelled us with a beautiful sunrise.
  8. @@penolva Thanks for that. We travelled from 19th April to 27th. It was dictated by the school holidays for Jayden and Roneta. April is a good time to travel in the South Island as you get glorious Autumn colour, but we were very lucky as the weather deteriorated considerably after we got home.
  9. Day 3 saw us travelling further down the West coast then heading inland. We took an exhilarating jet boat ride up the Makarora and Wilkins rivers in Mt Aspiring National Park and stayed the night in Wanaka a town on the edge of the beautiful Lake Wanaka. Day 4 took us to Te Anau, travelling over the Crown Range road, the highest main road in New Zealand at 1076m. Wonderful tussock country and great views with Queenstown in the distance. The next day we travelled out to Milford Sound – actually named incorrectly, it is a fjord. It was light rain and low cloud so the grandeur of the area was a little lacking with the tops being up in the cloud but it was still an amazing drive. First stop was at the Mirror Lakes, small alpine tarns with the mountain reflections being a highlight. Being early morning we were the only people there, the reflections of the sun touching the tops were stunning. There was a delightful little New Zealand Scaup (New Zealands only native diving duck) diving on the edges of the tarn but too difficult for me to photograph. Reflection in the tarn of the sun touching the tops Onward to Milford Sound, through the Homer tunnel a 1.2km long tunnel through the granite rock. Started in 1935 initially by five men using picks and wheelbarrows it was finally opened in 1953. At an elevation of 945m the tunnel runs 1.2km at approx. a 1:10 gradient down. Until it was sealed and enlarged it was the longest gravel-surfaced tunnel in the world. At Milford Sound we took a 2 hour cruise. During dry weather there are 4 permanent waterfalls but because of the rain we saw many many beautiful temporary waterfalls cascading down the steep sided mountains on either side of the fjord. A highlight was seeing a large pod of bottle nosed dolphins that came right up to the boat. New Zealand fur seals were also sighted on the rocks. Mitre Peak Our boat on Milford Sound Waterfall view of the top View of the base Patterns created in the water by the waterfall (photo by Roneta) Misty rainforest On our return journey we walked into the Chasm a spectacular area where the river is forced into a narrow channel and has worn incredible sculptures in the rocks. Typical rainforest That night we spent some time trying to observe the Aurora australis that was making a spectacular showing at that time but due to our position in Te Anau we couldn’t get a good view.
  10. @@pomkiwi So sorry to hear of your frustrations. I have been following this since it was first announced and there are more and more people having difficulties and having to cancel trips. I have written to the South African High Commission pointing out the almost impossible requirements only to be directed to the website that I quoted from!! Another of the impossible requirements is this (copied from the FAQ's on the website) - you cannot apply more than 90 days before and it takes at least a week to get the visa! So any airline specials are impossible to take advantage of. Do I have to purchase tickets before lodging the visa application? No fixed flight arrangements should be made until the visa has been attained, please submit only the travel schedule with preliminary schedules South Africa is out for us too at the moment, just hope online applications may be possible in future.
  11. Day 2 started with the amazing West Coast Tree top walk. A 1.2 km loop track elevated 20metres above the forest floor. Being up in the tree tops of the podocarp forest with bird calls abounding and incredible views was an exhilarating experience. My photography skills were sadly lacking here as we saw many birds but were unable to get close photos. Along the way you find the Hokitika Tower and we climbed the 107 spiralling steps to the top at 47m, a challenge for some but well worth the views at the top. The Tower View of Lake Mahinapua from the top Rata vine flowering - food for the nectar feeding birds Continuing on we reached Franz Josef. Here there are 2 glaciers, the Franz Josef and the Fox, two of the most accessible glaciers in the world. From about 3000m up in the Southern Alps they travel 12kms down to end only 300 metres above sea level. I stayed at a lower level but the others walked up to Fox Glacier, a challenging steep climb. Later we took a helicopter flight over the 2 glaciers – what an amazing view, swooping down low over them you could see the crevasses, the blue and white ice, just such a thrill. Fox Glacier walk Franz Josef from helicopter Fox Glacier from helicopter Ice close up from helicopter
  12. @@AmyT Thanks for your comments. Hope you get to Australia, the wildlife there is amazing .@@Treepol Thanks for the congrats, it certainly was a special trip. Yes Africa is still calling. New Zealanders now have to have visas to go to South Africa and have to be applied for in person at either Wellington or Auckland - a five hour trip for us from here so just another obstacle to overcome but hopefully we will get back in the next couple of years. Enjoy your birding trip, Stewart Island was amazing for birds.
  13. It is fascinating to see the simalarities to the boab of Australia (Adansonia gregorii) Here are 3 photos from our trip to Western Australia. The Prison tree at Derby. Boab Windjana Gorge Near Kununurra
  14. Day 1 As we flew from New Plymouth we were treated to some spectacular views of our mountain, Mount Taranaki (2518m) as the sun came up. Jayden got some great photos from the plane windows. Arriving in Christchurch we picked up the van, stocked up on food and set off. First stop Castle Hill, an area with much significance to the Maori people and scenic limestone formations which the family enjoyed exploring. We travelled over Porters Pass at 945m and Arthurs Pass 920m. A lookout just past the Arthur’s Pass village provided our first bird sighting, the entertaining and very intelligent Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. Here is a link to a video showing their intelligence We spent ages enjoying their antics. Sadly they are an endangered species with only an estimated 5000 left. Their curiosity leads to them eating things that endanger their health and people feeding them is a huge problem. Note the alpine surroundings and the viaduct below. When they fly a flash of orange shows from under their wing feathers. They have an endearing hopping gait on the ground and are very vocal Our accommodation that night was at Hokitika a small town right on the West Coast, with a wild, windswept beach and the roaring waves of the Tasman sea.
  15. 50th Wedding Anniversary trip – South Island New Zealand When our Kgalagadi/Mokala/Shindzela trip had to be cancelled due to my health problems I was pretty devastated but as I slowly recovered I decided on a Plan B for our celebrations. I planned a trip with our daughter and her husband and our 2 grandchildren, Jayden (14) and Roneta(16). We have just returned from a fabulous 8 days so thought Safari talkers might like to hear a little about the South Island of New Zealand. The itinerary was Day 1: Fly from our home in New Plymouth to Christchurch, pick up a van and drive to Hokitika Day 2: Hokitika to Franz Josef glacier Day 3: Franz Josef to Wanaka Day 4: Wanaka to Te Anau Day 5: Te Anau to Milford Sound and return Day 6 and 7: Stewart Island Day 8: Fly home from Dunedin. Map of trip - Stewart Island is over the strait from Bluff This report wont feature many animals as New Zealand has only marine mammals and bats but there are lots of birds and some stunning scenery. Some photos as a taster Kea in flight (taken by Roneta) Fox Glacier taken from the helicopter. Dolphin Milford Sound (taken by Roneta) Kaka

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