MeezersUK

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  1. St Lucia 3 days I'm running out of enthusiasm and photos now, so I'm going to put our last three days in one post. St Lucia is a pleasant enough little town, I never expected it to be entertainment central, but we struggled to fill our time here. With hindsight I should have booked one night in St Lucia to allow us to do the night drive and hippo/ croc boat trip , and the remaining two nights in Hluhluwe umfolozi reserve. But at the time a couple of days unplanned to do as we pleased seemed like a good idea, it's never worked in the past so I don't know why I thought it would work now. This guy has been perched outside our window every morning Our first free day we did the drive to Cape Vidal. In my mind we would leave early and be at the beach in time to snorkel at low tide. DH and the boys haven't surfaced from their slumbers ' early' in the last two weeks , I must have been deluded to think they would start now! It was almost 10 am when we joined the very long queue at the entrance gates to the wetlands reserve. Low tide was, I think, 8.30 am ish, so snorkeling had gone out the window. We drove slowly , taking all the turn offs to view points and rocky beaches, the scenery reminded me of certain coastal areas in the UK, and we saw about as much wildlife several duikers disappeared into the undergrowth as we went by, and that was it. It was all a bit ' ho hum' . At one view point we were coming down steps , along with several other tourists, when a coach load of young, teenage school children were coming up. I lost count of the ' hellos, good mornings, how are yous ?' every other child greeted us, some wanted to shake our hands. So polite and friendly! Of course UK kids are exactly the same We eventually arrived at Cape Vidal. Hmmm, again, not what I expected. It was a nice beach, but I've seen nicer ( we've plenty of stunning beaches in the UK, just haven't got the weather to go with them ) it was quite busy with people but the waves were big and didn't lend themselves to swimming , they pulled me under going out and knocked me over coming in We sat on the beach for a while, ate our picnic lunch , then back to the car to find a monkey had peed over the windscreen lots of monkeys in the car park. Many sitting and sunbathing on top of the vehicles. We also found a family of banded mongoose. One caught the scent of something underground and within seconds he had dug down and claimed his treat . We drove the swamp forest trail on the way back. We saw more animals here, mainly buffalo, wildebeest and zebra. Back in town we had a very good meal at Reef And Dune , then another fruitless drive around looking for hippo. Our last full day felt to me like a wasted day. I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to planning and organising, but if I leave it to DH and the boys, we do nothing. We tried to walk what should have been ( according to the map) a circular nature trail. But we lost the trail halfway and ended up having to retrace our steps. All we saw were dung beetles. Instead of rolling dung they seemed to be involved in territorial scuffles at the entrance to their hidey holes. Watching them kept us amused for a while and saved the nature trail from being devoid of wildlife. DH noticed that there was even an absence of birds, and DH notices very little We tried to fill the rest of the day with visits to the local beaches ( nothing special) walking the boardwalk ( took ten minutes) and souvenir shopping ( we found three souvenir shops) there is a market at the end of the main street. Pineapples must be in season as they made up 90% of produce available behind the fruit and vege is a craft market. The quantity is quite exciting , but on closer inspection every stall was selling the same thing, I doubt much if any of it was produced locally. My total haul for the afternoon was two fridge magnets and a box of rooibos teabags Is the 'no swimming' sign really necessary ? Our last morning we had our hippo/ croc boat trip. This was excellent. We were on the smaller 'Shoreline' boats, so not too many passengers. The captain's commentary was amusing and informative. I never knew hippos were such thugs. Compared to them the crocodile sounds almost civilised It was early morning and still rather chilly so we saw only one croc, but again , the captain gave us alot of interesting information. We also saw various birds, a giant kingfisher , a couple of fish eagles. I laughed to learn that rather than relinquishing a fish too heavy to carry, the fish eagle will use it's wings to paddle itself to shore. It was a fantastic end to our trip. We got back to our apartment in time to have a small breakfast and check out. Now I was stuck. It was 10am and we didn't have to return our car at Richard's bay airport until 1 pm. What to do for an hour or so? We visited a craft shop we'd seen earlier beside Siyabonga jetty, but there was little to tempt us. We debated having a look around Richard's bay, but the car was loaded with luggage and everything was packed, ready for our flight home. So we decided to just get to the airport early, return the car and have lunch in the airport cafe . We managed to kill twenty minutes looking for a petrol station to top up the tank before returning the car, but we were still at the airport by 12 noon. We returned the car then discovered the cafe and check-in were not open. We sat for over a boring hour in an empty terminal. The cafe opened around 1.30 and we were able to quiet our rumbling stomachs. Check in opened shortly after and we were soon on our way to Johannesburg and then Frankfurt and then home. I'm already planning a return trip next year ( well , actually, I was planning a second trip before we'd taken the first ) seeing the Spring flowers of the Western Cape is on my bucket list and we couldn't go all that way just for flowers ,so Kruger will probably feature again. But I have also promised DH we will go back to Costa Rica and I've added a couple more destinations to my list after reading trip reports on here. So, maybe next year, maybe not, but I'll definitely be back
  2. Rhino River Lodge to St Lucia Our last morning drive was another slow one. Just the four of us again and alot of driving around looking for tracks. I'm sure we saw the usual suspects, but the only sightings I've noted are giraffes and a ' diver/darter bird' We saw one of these in Costa Rica, but it was always perched with wings spread, drying it's feathers. This one was actually diving and it was fascinating to watch. It would disappear below the water for a minute , then it's head and neck would appear, moving through the water like a snorkel, before disappearing again and re-emerging several feet away with a good sized fish. The fish was too big I think, it juggled it trying to swallow it and ended up dropping it. Lucky escape for the fish. The giraffes were practice sparring, I assume it was a practice as they seemed to be chilled out between hammering each others necks. I took more video than photos, when I can work out how I'll put it on here. We also saw our first ' sausage tree' I can't believe we have been two weeks in South Africa and have only just seen one Back at camp we pack up and check out. I've enjoyed our stay, the staff are so friendly, the food is very good and our accommodation comfortable. But we all agree we preferred driving ourselves around Kruger , choosing what to watch and for long . My original itinerary had us staying at the lodge before Kruger and I think that would have worked better. I want to do some souvenir shopping on the way to St Lucia and I assume Navmii will continue to be unhelpful. So reception print out directions to Ilala Weavers and we find our way there easily. I spend a little too much time shopping and as we are booked to go horse riding at 1 pm in St Lucia we aren't able to stop for coffee and lunch in their cafe. Of course, being pushed for time, I manage to take a wrong turn and we arrive at the stables with minutes to spare. In Kruger we asked why we hadn't seen any dung beetles and were told it was the wrong season, so we are surprised to see dung beetles busy in the yard here ,but we don't have time to take photos. There are two others riding with us and our horses seem to be randomly allocated. I owned a horse decades ago , swapped him for a mortgage and have only ridden once since - in Costa Rica two years ago, which was also when DH and the boys rode for the first time. In Costa Rica we had a very enjoyable private ride on very well mannered horses. DS18 and I were able to canter , much to his delight , DH and DS21 chose to trundle along at a slower pace and we had such a good time I should have known better than to try and repeat the experience. Our horses this time were not so well mannered and more inclined to take advantage of the lack of experience of their riders. We rode through a wetlands area and our guide told us about some of the trees and wildlife. We saw zebra, warthogs and water buck. I was asked if I wanted to canter and rode with one of the guides away from the others so we could take a longer route. There followed a moment from a comedy sketch when we heard ' whoooaa! Stoppp! Whoo! ' and turned to see DHs mount in hot pursuit of our horses with DH bouncing around and gamely clinging on for dear life. His horse stopped when it reached ours and was led back to the others at a more sedate pace, DH was ok and even joked about his impromptu gallop, but it could have had an unhappy ending. After our ride we had a short drive to our accommodation in St Lucia. There was some confusion at check-in due to a guest with a similar name, thank goodness I print and carry copies of all paperwork , it was eventually rectified and we were taken to our apartment, where the key promptly jammed and they had to get a caretaker to open the door for us! But it was worth the wait, our apartment was lovely. This is turning into a day of minor fiascos. By now it was late afternoon and we hadn't eaten. We drove to the Ski boat club for a late lunch,/ early dinner overlooking the estuary. We saw pelicans and the tail I end of a crocodile, but no hippos. We were advised to drive if we were going to be out after dark, as hippos roam the town at night and you do not want to bump into one on foot! I wouldn't want to bump into one while driving either, but we actually went for a little drive around town the three nights we were there, hoping to spot a hippo in the street, but had no luck. Back at the apartment we have a night drive booked but have a little time to relax and connect to WiFi for the first time since Swaziland. The night drive is niggling me as it is advertised as 7 pm start online, but our pickup time is 8 pm. I queried this before leaving the UK and was assured 8 pm is correct. I log on to my email at 7.10 pm and find an email apologising for the error and confirming pickup is at 7 pm. Mad panic! We run down to the entrance gate but our pickup is nowhere to be seen. I run back to the apartment thinking I'll phone the company, but my phone is out of charge. Then DH is shouting me that the ride has just arrived and hurry up cos we are late! Grrr! No we are not! I pride myself on being punctual and hate to be thought late, the other passengers are not English and seem to be unaware of the misinformation , they probably assume we are just bad mannered ,keeping them waiting. Anyway, we eventually head off to the wetlands at a speed that suggests we have to make up for lost time. I hope our driver slows down once in the reserve, or we're not going to see alot Our first sighting is a chameleon, even driving at a slower speed I'm not sure how the guide spotted him. We see zebra , nightjars sitting in the road , then not a lot , until DS catches eyes gleaming in the spotlight and yells ' stop' , it's a leopard and it's on the move. Not inclined to hang around for photos. We follow it for quite a while but it's always just out of range and I begin to feel bad incase we are hindering it's hunt for dinner. You can't really sneak up on an impala with a safari vehicle in tow Our guide obviously agrees because we say ' goodnight' to the leopard and leave it in peace. Our next and last sighting are hyenas. But they are even less inclined to be caught on camera. They are a distance off the road and we follow best we can but keep losing sight of them. I am amazed how fast they can move as they reappear a long way ahead of where I have my camera focused. The ride back to town is cold. We have coats and blankets but I'm still shivering we can see our breath in the chilly night air. It's 11 pm when we arrive back at the apartment, four hours has whizzed by.
  3. Wow! I knew I shouldn't read a new trip report when I already have such a long list of destinations I want to visit. I love the detail you go into and your enthusiasm. I'm sitting here smiling as I read.
  4. Rhino River Lodge to St Lucia Our last morning drive was another slow one. Just the four of us again and alot of driving around looking for tracks. I'm sure we saw the usual suspects, but the only sightings I've noted are giraffes and a ' diver/darter bird' We saw one of these in Costa Rica, but it was always perched with wings spread, drying it's feathers. This one was actually diving and it was fascinating to watch. It would disappear below the water for a minute , then it's head and neck would appear, moving through the water like a snorkel, before disappearing again and re-emerging several feet away with a good sized fish. The fish was too big I think, it juggled it trying to swallow it and ended up dropping it. Lucky escape for the fish. The giraffes were practice sparring, I assume it was a practice as they seemed to be chilled out between hammering each others necks. I took more video than photos, when I can work out how I'll put it on here. We also saw our first ' sausage tree' I can't believe we have been two weeks in South Africa and have only just seen one Back at camp we pack up and check out. I've enjoyed our stay, the staff are so friendly, the food is very good and our accommodation comfortable. But we all agree we preferred driving ourselves around Kruger , choosing what to watch and for long . My original itinerary had us staying at the lodge before Kruger and I think that would have worked better. I want to do some souvenir shopping on the way to St Lucia and I assume Navmii will continue to be unhelpful. So reception print out directions to Ilala Weavers and we find our way there easily. I spend a little too much time shopping and as we are booked to go horse riding at 1 pm in St Lucia we aren't able to stop for coffee and lunch in their cafe. Of course, being pushed for time, I manage to take a wrong turn and we arrive at the stables with minutes to spare. In Kruger we asked why we hadn't seen any dung beetles and were told it was the wrong season, so we are surprised to see dung beetles busy in the yard here ,but we don't have time to take photos. There are two others riding with us and our horses seem to be randomly allocated. I owned a horse decades ago , swapped him for a mortgage and have only ridden once since - in Costa Rica two years ago, which was also when DH and the boys rode for the first time. In Costa Rica we had a very enjoyable private ride on very well mannered horses. DS18 and I were able to canter , much to his delight , DH and DS21 chose to trundle along at a slower pace and we had such a good time I should have known better than to try and repeat the experience. Our horses this time were not so well mannered and more inclined to take advantage of the lack of experience of their riders. We rode through a wetlands area and our guide told us about some of the trees and wildlife. We saw zebra, warthogs and water buck. I was asked if I wanted to canter and rode with one of the guides away from the others so we could take a longer route. There followed a moment from a comedy sketch when we heard ' whoooaa! Stoppp! Whoo! ' and turned to see DHs mount in hot pursuit of our horses with DH bouncing around and gamely clinging on for dear life. His horse stopped when it reached ours and was led back to the others at a more sedate pace, DH was ok and even joked about his impromptu gallop, but it could have had an unhappy ending. After our ride we had a short drive to our accommodation in St Lucia. There was some confusion at check-in due to a guest with a similar name, thank goodness I print and carry copies of all paperwork , it was eventually rectified and we were taken to our apartment, where the key promptly jammed and they had to get a caretaker to open the door for us! But it was worth the wait, our apartment was lovely. This is turning into a day of minor fiascos. By now it was late afternoon and we hadn't eaten. We drove to the Ski boat club for a late lunch,/ early dinner overlooking the estuary. We saw pelicans and the tail I end of a crocodile, but no hippos. We were advised to drive if we were going to be out after dark, as hippos roam the town at night and you do not want to bump into one on foot! I wouldn't want to bump into one while driving either, but we actually went for a little drive around town the three nights we were there, hoping to spot a hippo in the street, but had no luck. Back at the apartment we have a night drive booked but have a little time to relax and connect to WiFi for the first time since Swaziland. The night drive is niggling me as it is advertised as 7 pm start online, but our pickup time is 8 pm. I queried this before leaving the UK and was assured 8 pm is correct. I log on to my email at 7.10 pm and find an email apologising for the error and confirming pickup is at 7 pm. Mad panic! We run down to the entrance gate but our pickup is nowhere to be seen. I run back to the apartment thinking I'll phone the company, but my phone is out of charge. Then DH is shouting me that the ride has just arrived and hurry up cos we are late! Grrr! No we are not! I pride myself on being punctual and hate to be thought late, the other passengers are not English and seem to be unaware of the misinformation , they probably assume we are just bad mannered ,keeping them waiting. Anyway, we eventually head off to the wetlands at a speed that suggests we have to make up for lost time. I hope our driver slows down once in the reserve, or we're not going to see alot Our first sighting is a chameleon, even driving at a slower speed I'm not sure how the guide spotted him. We see zebra , nightjars sitting in the road , then not a lot , until DS catches eyes gleaming in the spotlight and yells ' stop' , it's a leopard and it's on the move. Not inclined to hang around for photos. We follow it for quite a while but it's always just out of range and I begin to feel bad incase we are hindering it's hunt for dinner. You can't really sneak up on an impala with a safari vehicle in tow Our guide obviously agrees because we say ' goodnight' to the leopard and leave it in peace. Our next and last sighting are hyenas. But they are even less inclined to be caught on camera. They are a distance off the road and we follow best we can but keep losing sight of them. I am amazed how fast they can move as they reappear a long way ahead of where I have my camera focused. The ride back to town is cold. We have coats and blankets but I'm still shivering we can see our breath in the chilly night air. It's 11 pm when we arrive back at the apartment, four hours has whizzed by.
  5. Rhino River Lodge Up at 5 am today for our first early morning drive. DH and the boys are actually ready on time, why couldn't they do that in Kruger? Maybe it's because there are muffins and hot chocolate on offer while we wait. No sign of the Dutch couple this morning, so it's just the four of us in the vehicle. It's a very quiet start, we see zebra and warthogs and our first close up ostrich ( we saw one on the Cape Peninsula tour but way off in the distance). DS18 has a new pastime. On asking what made all the little holes we see everywhere in soft ground, our guide tells us about the ant lion larvae and shows DS how to lure one out of its trap. On our way back to camp we find the lions, still a little too close for comfort. Breakfast is served, then we have a few hours to relax until the afternoon game drive. I get some photos of the nyala, they are very timid compared to the animals we saw in Kruger. A family of warthogs trot past our sun loungers, they certainly aren't timid. I hope they aren't luring the lions closer DS and I ' fish,' for ant lions but have no luck. The cottage has a plunge pool , me and DS brave a dip but it's freezing, even by UK standards. Lunchtime soon rolls around and then it's time for our afternoon game drive. Just us four again . Another larger family has arrived but they have a vehicle to themselves. First stop is elies feeding. They are browsing from some tallish shrubs. It makes me smile how they use their trunks to feel/ smell for the tastiest leaves. It reminds me of a short person ( me ) reaching for something they can't see on a high shelf. The tips of their trunks skim backwards and forwards over the vegetation and you can almost hear an ' aha! There it is,' when they find the leaves they're looking for. I've got my fingers crossed for rhino today. It's my birthday and I've requested a rhino sighting it takes a while , alot of backtracking, checking spoor and tracks , but our patience is rewarded, we find a black rhino. Shortly afterwards, like the proverbial London bus , two White rhino show up. I'm surprised to learn there are no territorial issues between the black and white, they simply don't recognise each other as rhino! The rhinos at the lodge have all had their horns removed. Before this was put into practice they lost 15 rhino in two years to poachers! We find the lions again, a bit further from camp this time thank goodness, they are eyeing up a couple of giraffe, but the giraffe know they are there so it's a bit of a stalemate. Back at camp , as it's my birthday, dinner is served in a private Boma . It's lovely, with a fire lit and lanterns. DS18 is sitting with his back to the unscreened area and swears he can hear rustling. I promise I'll warn him if anything creeps up on him, but he still looks over his shoulder several times a minute After we have eaten dessert ( I've given mine to DH cos I'm stuffed) I'm aware of singing, and it's getting closer. The staff are singing ' happy birthday' in an African language and bring in a birthday cake. I wish I'd recorded the singing , it was lovely. As was the cake, but we were all too full to enjoy it. Rhinos and an African ' happy birthday' , this is going to be a hard birthday to beat
  6. Swaziland to Rhino River Lodge We wake to pattering footsteps on the roof above us. The monkeys in Swaziland are just as active and mischievous as those in Kruger. We watch them playing and chasing around the hotel grounds, then have breakfast and leave for our drive to Rhino River Lodge in KwaZulu-Natal. The Navmii app is STILL not working, I really wanted to give it a good review but it is proving too unreliable . Using the hotel's WiFi I have downloaded an offline map from Google and this gets us onto the right road. Driving through Swaziland is an experience. There is so much litter everywhere we could be driving through a rubbish dump. The scenery is beautiful in places, if you can look past the rubbish, and there are so many shacks and temporary structures people are living in , right next to nice, modern looking houses. Animals too. We see goats, donkeys, cows , chickens and dogs, all wandering freely beside and over the road. I imagine these animals are valuable to their owners, so why aren't they secured in some way? When a vehicle approaches animals by the roadside it slows slightly and the hazard lights are switched on to warn the drivers behind. But we still see several dead animals on the roadside. Driving through Swaziland Google gets us to the border where we meet another lot of apathetic officials. I manage to omit getting our customs form stamped and am told to park the car at the border crossing and walk back to the building to get it stamped. I have nothing with me but the form, but it is still stamped, it's all a bit of a farce. As we enter South Africa there are protesters blocking the road. What they are protesting about I have no idea , but it gives us time to sort out the next offline map and they soon clear a gap and wave us through. We stop in Mkuze to fill up with petrol. While driving around Kruger we've kept the tank at least half full, now it's less than a quarter full and I'm relieved to find Mkuze is large enough to have a petrol station. I love how the attendants guide you in, I feel like I'm parking a jumbo jet ,:) the attendant here is especially friendly ( they all are) and asks me where we have driven from and where we live. On being told 'England' he asks ' which side are you on?' and starts naming English cities. It takes me a minute to realise he is asking about football and which team I support. I don't like football, but DH is a Liverpool fan and there follows a discussion on the best players and goals. Wherever we go in the world I am amazed how football can start a conversation. Windscreen washed and attendant tipped, we continue on our way. We arrive at Rhino River around 2 pm. Driving through the reserve we see wildebeest galloping for no apparent reason, nothing is chasing them but boy, can they shift! and spot our first Nyala . We get a lovely friendly welcome at reception and are told about lions killing a warthog not 100 yds from reception that morning. We are shown to our cottage, it's lovely, not posh, but very comfortable. DH announces he could live here We have a warthog wandering down our path. We walk over to the dining area for lunch, it feels strange not to have fences around the accommodation like in Kruger, I wonder where the lions are now We have just enough time to get changed before the afternoon game drive. The daytime temperatures so far have been perfect , low to mid twenties, but early mornings and evenings are chilly , especially when on an open sided vehicle, so it's trousers and fleeces all round. We share the vehicle with a Dutch couple, I'm pleasantly surprised there are only six of us on the drive. We see giraffe, elephants and lions . I don't take many photos, we have seen so much in Kruger , but it is nice to sit and look instead of having to drive as well and of course, it's handy to have a guide to answer any questions. The elephants are beside the road and are eating the long grass. We have an unobscured view of how they twist the grass ( like we twist spaghetti) then place a foot on the base of the clump as they pull. If the grass comes up with roots still attached they shake it and bang it on the ground to get rid of the dirt. We have our first sundowners while watching the sunset, then back to camp for dinner and a sit around the fire.
  7. Biyamiti to Swaziland Today we leave Kruger. We are going to drive to KwaZulu-Natal , (North of Durban), via Swaziland. We will stay the night in Swaziland to break the journey and it gives us the morning to spend in Kruger. Our view at Biyamiti Leaving So, early start to make the most of our last few hours. I'm determined to find rhino today, I'd like to include wild dogs , but that seems a bit greedy, and rhino are bigger so less chance of disappointment right? We set off down the so called ' magic road' , think the 'magic' is that everything has vanished! It's still very quiet. Onto one of the dirt roads and we trundle along at a snails pace, bumping and jarring. This road seems to have ridges ( corrugations?)and it makes for an uncomfortable ride. We stop to watch eles ( never tire of ele's) and see a few giraffe and alot of warthogs. Warthogs seem to be popping up every time we stop lately. We love them, such busy, comical creatures, always look as though they are hurrying to an appointment. After a couple of hours we see a car parked up, we don't have to ask what they are watching. It's a leopard and we can see him from the road without binoculars. He's in the usual leopard pose - draped inelegantly over a branch, but he actually has his eyes open and is looking right at us for a few minutes, until he turns his head, we are dismissed. We continue on to Berg en Dal, hoping the wild dogs will still be in the area, but no luck. We put the leopard on the sightings board, but of course it's not going to help us find rhino ( rhino aren't mentioned on the sightings board). We decide to spend the remaining three hours taking whichever turning feels lucky, and would you believe it? It works, sort of. We have slowed for so many rhino shaped rocks and rhino coloured shadows, that when I see yet another rhino boulder I've driven past before I register it has ears! I reverse , lean as far right as I can, zoom in to the max with the camera , and yes, it is definitely a rhino. Only trouble is all we can see is a shoulder and an ear. He is so far away in the undergrowth and not inclined to move. But I wanted a rhino and I got a rhino. I'm satisfied, sort of Spot the rhino A little further along we encounter our last cat jam. It's a male lion with a buffalo kill. From the whiff I get I'm not sure it's a fresh kill. He's in the long grass , not easy to see and we need to be heading for the gate. This was the only time we experienced bad manners in that the car infront of us hadn't pulled as far right as he could. He was effectively blocking the road. I put my indicator on hoping he would move so I could get past, but he just sat and ignored us. It wasn't until an oncoming car actually tried to drive up onto the bank to get by that the driver got the message and moved over. On our way to the gate we passed what I think was a pearl spotted owlet, just sitting in the road, so ridiculously tiny I did a double take when I realised it was an owl! It had flown by the time I'd reversed. We leave Kruger a little later than planned ( thanks to Mr no manners) and find our Navmii app is still in a huff. It can't get us to our hotel in Swaziland because ' your location is not near a highway'. Thank goodness we aren't relying on it. I have my Google maps print outs, plus my road map and DS is declared navigator. It's a fairly straightforward route but I do miss the sat navs constant encouragement. DS has a habit of closing his eyes between turn offs and refuses to countdown the distance to a turning in metres The South African/ Swaziland border is not what I expected. I was imagining something small, staffed by friendly, smiling officials. I wouldn't say the officials we encountered were unfriendly, that would require effort. But they must be the most apathetic, lacksadaisical border staff I've ever met. Not one actually looked at me or spoke to me. But we got the relevant stamps on our passports and were soon on our way. The border crossing It's raining in Swaziland and we are going via Piggs Peak. The higher we go the heavier the mist, visibility is very poor. Coming from the UK we are familiar with driving in this sort of weather, but it's still not something I enjoy, especially on an unfamiliar route. There are alot of trucks and though some move over for me, if they think I'm going to overtake them on a bend , on a mountain road , in poor visibility, they can think again. We crawl along behind them until we are finally down the mountain and out of the mist. We drive through a couple of fair sized towns, immediately announcing ourselves as tourists when we stop at the pedestrian crossings! Everyone else just weaves around the people trying to cross the road. We stop at one crossing and after an initial startled look in our direction , I swear half the town immediately crosses the road infront of us! I bet most of them didn't even need to cross the road, they were just enjoying the novelty of having a car stop for them We eventually arrive at our hotel after only one wrong turn and connect to WiFi for the first time in a week , I can't remember if we've been without it for so long before, I haven't missed it but I'm not sure DH and the boys would agree. We have an acceptable dinner in the hotel's restaurant and a decent but quiet night's sleep, I'm missing the sounds of Kruger.
  8. Satara to Biyamiti Today is our last full day in the park. I am up early to make the most of it. I love sitting with my cup of tea , listening to the noises of everything waking up ( except DH and the boys, they are still slumbering ) I get to meet some early morning visitors. The kitchen area of our bungalows at Satara is outside, the fridges are fitted with lockable grills over the doors to stop the monkeys from helping themselves. I watch two potential fridge rustlers trying unsuccessfully to reach goodies on top of a neighbours fridge. Then I'm visited by a starling and a very pretty crested barbet, both of who take a rather obsessive interest in my toast. I'm sure they would have sat on my hand if I'd let them. Next to come along and say ' good morning' is a banded mongoose. He is checking out all the kitchen areas in the hope of finding something the monkeys have overlooked. When DH and the boys finally surface , we begin our longest drive down to Biyamiti camp, via Skukuza camp. Biyamiti is a bushveld camp, meaning it is small with no restaurant, laundry or fuel station. Skukuza is the largest camp in the park. It has a golf course and a marathon is run from here every August. Yes, a marathon in a game reserve! I've read that on occasions the race has come to a halt because of lions in the vicinity. I wonder if the runners get many record breaking times We haven't long left Satara when DH spots something moving at speed in the scrub on our left. It's a hyena and it's carrying something. As it runs into the road ahead of us we realise it's two hyenas. One has the front half of a baboon carcass , the second has the tail , gruesome but funny. We follow them on the road for quite a way before we lose them in the undergrowth. We stop at our favourite picnic site for breakfast and to say goodbye to the monkeys, then continue slowly on to Skukuza. We encounter our usual troop of baboons walking, playing and sitting in the road oblivious to traffic. Warthogs and giraffe are always nearby. A large group of ellie's are at a waterhole, the babies are so cute, especially when they charge at the birds. At another waterhole we see five different animals in one group. The impala are struggling to walk in the boggy ground and get their delicate looking legs stuck in the mud. I can't help thinking they'd be easy pickings for any observant predator. We see hippo, crocodiles and , I think, a monitor lizard on the river banks . On arriving at Skukuza it's immediately obvious that this is the biggest, busiest camp in the park. There are coaches lined up in the carpark and large queues at the restaurant and restrooms. Some of the accommodations are right next to the carpark. I'm so pleased we didn't stay here. I have my one and only yuk meal of the trip here. I buy a pre prepared Greek salad, it looks lovely with feta, tomatoes, olives and onion on lettuce. It is actually a bowl of lettuce with a bare handful of the above sitting on top. I would have complained if I hadn't queued so long to get it. We buy ingredients for tonight's braai in the camp store. I've found a tin of tuna and bought some cheese, so I'm looking forward to a tasty jacket potato. I remember reading a tip to take a decent can opener to Kruger if self catering and almost buy one from the store, but we have a kitchen and utensils tonight, so should be fine. We step up the pace for our last leg to Biyamiti, we have another sunset drive booked and I want time to look around the camp and relax first. There isn't a great deal to stop for. We see our first ground hornbills which pleases DS18, he can check them off his list. The driveway to Biyamiti is about 15kms long and is open to camp guests only. It's nicknamed the ' magic road' as there are so many good sightings along it. Not so magic for us. We see nothing, not even impala! Only one little duiker. On arriving at the camp the ranger tells us we are the only ones on the sunset drive, so we have a private drive! It starts off very slow, we are asked what we would like to try and find and reply ' rhino and wild dogs' ,we aren't that far from where we saw them on our first night. After half an hour of not much at all, we're about ready to settle for impala then we come across a vehicle from another camp, they have found lions with a kill, a young giraffe , which is unusual. Lions are often wary of going after giraffe as a kick could kill. We watch for a while then continue a few kms to find a small group of giraffe, I wonder if they are missing a family member? When we switch the spotlights on we see an owl and get a glimpse of dwarf mongoose and honey badgers, another first. So a reasonably successful evening after all. Back at camp we light the braii and my potatoes are wrapped in foil and nestled in the embers. I've grated the cheese and find the can opener. But it is as much use as a chocolate teapot. I knew I should have bought one. By the time my jacket potatoes are ready DS is stabbing my can of tuna with a carving knife, trying to make a hole big enough to shake some tuna out. Luckily it's flaked tuna, so I'm able to extract enough to top my potato. And very nice it tastes too. But in future I'll heed advice given.
  9. Thanks, that would explain why I couldn't match him up with anything in the guidebook
  10. Satara We are on a cheetah hunt today. Based on the markers on yesterday's sightings board we head out to drive the river loop, a 60 km circular route on mainly dirt roads , before heading North for lunch at Olifants restcamp. After the first 20 Kms anticipation quickly gives way to boredom. There is nothing to see ( I don't mean that literally, there are always impala, wildebeest, waterbuck etc but their novelty has worn off, though we do occasionally feel guilty about taking them for granted and stop to say hello  ) The road follows a river, on one side we have a lush , green but dry riverbed. With the huge old trees we could be in England, until we turn our heads to see the acres of long, dry grass on our other side. When we get to a junction we decide to forego the rest of the dirt road loop and head back towards the tar road. A few Kms along several cars are parked up , all heads turned towards the sea of dry grass. We ask what they are looking at to be told ' apparently there are cheetah somewhere in there' Great, we've found the haystack, now to find the needle  We sit and scan the area with binoculars, trying to pinpoint where people are aiming their huge zoom lenses. Then DH shouts ' I see a head' it's a young cheetah, not fully grown and he has sat up long enough for us to get a couple of photos. The adult then stands up , turns around and lays down again. Laying down they are impossible to see. We wait a few minutes longer then agree to be happy with our sighting and continue on to Olifants for lunch. So that's everything we hoped to see seen. How lucky are we? We are in such a good mood we stop to say hello to some impala The drive up to Olifants has to be the most boring of the week. We get off to a good start with elephants just outside Satara. We can sit and watch ellies for ages. But after that , nothing ( except for impala and kudu etc  ) all the way to Olifants. Olifants camp is as far north as we get on this trip. It's known for it's lovely location high up , overlooking the Olifants river. We have lunch while enjoying the view. Leaving Olifants we stop on the bridge over the river and watch baby baboons playing in a tree. They are taking it in turns to climb up a branch, leap across a five foot gap, swing down and climb up again. They are very well mannered, all waiting their turn and obviously enjoying their practice at being ' big ' baboons. They remind me of toddlers in a playground. A non eventful drive back to Satara, we have a wander around the camp looking for photo ops and find a group of monkeys playing on the benches of the outdoor cinema. They seem to be playing tag and take turns jumping up and bobbing down to hide. We watch for so long , it grows dark and our stomachs are rumbling. We have another restaurant dinner. Then DH and I take our torches to walk along the perimeter fence to see if we can spot anything on the other side. After 100 metres of so we decide this is a waste of time and turn around to find a hyena less than four foot away from us .He was probably following us silently all the time we were walking. It made me shudder
  11. Thank you. I wonder if anyone can identify the eagle ( ?) I can manage the obvious like the Bateleur and LBR , but if it's generally brown or black I'm stuck
  12. Lower Sabie to Satara Day 9 We change camps today. Kruger is huge ,about the size of Wales. The vegetation and therefore the density and type of animals varies so it is best to move around to increase the chances of seeing certain animals. Today we head north to Satara ,a camp in ' cat country' . There are consistently good sightings of lion, leopard and cheetah here, though we have already seen lions close up near Lower Sabie, so nothing is guaranteed, the animals don't read the guidebook . We head out at 8 am on a tar road. Yesterday's lack of sightings has left us disappointed with the quieter dirt roads preferred by some. There are so many places to stop on the way and multiple choices of route, it can take all day to drive a short distance if you want it to. There are Ellie's just outside the camp and the usual zebra, kudu etc to divert us . How do you hide an elephant? Stand it behind a tree of course! There was an adult Ellie behind this tree, you can just see it's left front leg. How many zebra can you see? We stop at a view point where we have an incredible , panoramic view of what seems like half of Kruger spread out below us. Three hours and 50 Kms later we stop for an early lunch at a picnic site. Kruger's version of motorway services :). comfy chairs , shop selling takeaway food items , souvenirs and essentials, clean toilets and cafe serving tasty, cheap food. And monkeys. Like most of Kruger's rest areas, this site is plagued with them. They sit around waiting for an unattended plate , or to snatch a morsel from the bin before it is emptied ( every few minutes by the staff)all very amusing for the guests but a nuisance for the employees. At every restcamp and picnic site there is a sightings board, a map where guests can pin a marker on the place they have seen a lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog or elephant that day ( rhinos unfortunately can't be included due to risk of alerting poachers to their whereabouts) Leopard and cheetah have been spotted nearby today, so we make it our mission to find them. We continue our slow drive North , detouring to see the most southerly baobab tree and to watch elephants drinking and playing at a waterhole. Approaching the turn off where the leopard was spotted we come across another ' cat jam' not leopard though, lions again. But they are lying in long grass and impossible to see. Having had our close up view at Lower Sabie we aren't inclined to wait for them to show themselves. We head down a dirt track near where the leopard was spotted ( the sighting locations aren't exact, they just get you to the general area) and unusually , this normally quieter dirt road is quite busy. Maybe this is a good sign? An oncoming vehicle stops and tells us the leopard is a few Kms further on , on the left Yes! Most people in Kruger are keen to pass on special sightings and will flag you down to tell you of something worth seeing. We find the leopard, due to the cars parked up , not by spotting him, that takes a few minutes with the binoculars, how the first person spotted him I don't know. He is draped over a branch asleep, he doesn't open his eyes, let alone move. But still! It's a real live leopard! We watch him far longer than his comatose state justifies, then head on to Satara, arriving at camp at 3 pm. It has taken us 7 hours to drive 98 Kms! We have perimeter bungalows again, this time the boys have their own as each bungalow sleeps two. The accomodations at Kruger range from guesthouses that sleep 10 to basic huts with nothing but a single bed . The perimeter bungalows I've booked are generally a bit dearer than the other rooms, but still good value. They are basic but have kitchen and bathroom, sometimes a bit worn, but clean and comfortable, and in the park! What more could you want? I have booked a sunset drive tonight. Another Sanparks activity. We leave the camp at 4.30 and get to stay out until 7.30, 2 hours after the gates have closed. There are ten of us on the drive, DS18 and I are at the back and are given the task of using the spotlights when it gets dark. Our guide has heard about the invisible lions from earlier and knows just where to look for them. They have moved from their grassy hideaway and are now at the side of the track we took to see the leopard. It's a lioness with cubs of varying ages, so obviously not all hers, she is babysitting. We have a lovely, unobscured view and we don't have to share it with anyone. We then continue down the road to see if the leopard is still there, he isn't, so back to the lions who have now moved to the tar road and are lounging about creating a one vehicle cat jam' the look the lioness gives us when she finally deigns to move aside for the vehicle leaves us in no doubt that she's moving because SHE wants to, not because it suits us Altogether on the drive we see impala, elephants, zebra, waterbuck,giraffe, hyena,lions and DS spotted a Genet, but it was gone before we could get a picture. We eat at the camp restaurant tonight , we are too hungry to bother with a braii and there are only so many vege kebabs a person can eat
  13. Lower Sabie Day 8 While in Kruger I was intending that we get a few early starts as early morning and late afternoon are supposedly the best times for seeing the animals. The really committed Kruger guests are sat in their cars waiting for the gates to open , 6am in July. I knew we'd never be that early but I was hoping we'd be out the door by 7am, this morning was 7.40am and that's the earliest we managed We drove south down to Crocodile Bridge restcamp, hoping to find the wild dog pack we saw yesterday. We didn't see much at all and I blamed our late start, not that it made any difference to the following morning's start times. ( Looking back at the photos on the camera, we actually saw a heck of a lot ) A troop of baboons entertained us, playing and lounging on the road just outside of camp We saw the usual impala, kudu and giraffe We had coffee and snacks at Crocodile Bridge ( you can use the restaurants and shops at any of the camps) and then drove back to Lower Sabie on a dirt ( gravel) road . All along the dirt road we had hornbills playing ' chicken' infront of the car. We couldn't work out what they were doing , why they would sit in the road until the car was almost upon them before flying off. Until a huge grasshopper flew across the windscreen and a hornbill dove after it, catching it midair. I assume these grasshoppers/ locust things were also attracted to the gravel road and the hornbills were waiting for the car to disturb them . It was quite comical how many of these birds would ' leapfrog' the car to always be infront of it In fact we saw alot of birds today, maybe cos we saw little of the larger, distracting animals. I love the little lilac breasted rollers, they look as though a child has coloured them in Back at LowerSabie we had lunch at the restaurant, the deck overlooks the Sabie river, can't be many places you can eat while watching hippos and birds. We were entertained by the starlings who replace monkeys here, waiting for you to turn your head or leave your plate so they can grab a morsel. There are water squirters strategically placed but we enjoyed their chatter and cheekiness We went out for a short drive late afternoon, apparently we saw a lion, I'd forgotten about him! Also a varied selection of animals at a waterhole We stop on the bridge over the river to watch the hippos and sunset Another braai for dinner, another vege kebab,the accompanying glass of wine and view from our braii area raise it from mediocre to unforgettable. All the accommodation I have booked in Kruger is on the perimeter of the camp and has a view beyond the electrified perimeter fence. This means at worst you can see any wildlife that approaches the fence outside the camp, at best you get a view , in this case of the river. We can listen to hippos as we eat 
  14. OK, this could take some time.( I did say I was technologically challenged in my first post ) I'll start with photos from Day 7
  15. OK, I'll see if this works. Our rhino welcome and bush walk

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