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Found 5 results

  1. A photographic safari and apparently not my last after all…… My usual travel partner is my daughter but since she’s about to graduate and enter the workforce with no chunk of time off in the near future I suspected this would be my last hoorah to the continent. So this trip was with my husband and because he doesn’t have much interest in wildlife or photography to keep him satisfied the lodges needed to have nice accommodations, good food and wine or in his case the bourbon of his choice. What I thought would fit that tall order was Phinda Vlei, Sabi Sabi Earth and Londolozi Granite, all places I had been to before at various times, over the top for him and offer me some excellent photographic opportunities. It went like this: GNV to ATL to JNB JNB one night Intercontinental Phinda four nights Sabi Sabi four nights Londolozi four nights We had hoped to meet Peter Connan, the ST hostess with the mostest and his wife for dinner in JNB but as luck would have it he was in Namibia trying to tear up his camper trailer that he had so lovely constructed…. see his report on that….and his ongoing Namibia TR. Two months out from our trip we found out that the direct flight to Phinda and then from there to the Sabi Sands as we had done before was now going to take 4-5 legs. Phinda is now using SAA so we had to fly JNB to Skukuza then to Phinda….a minor inconvenience. I had felt Phinda was one of the best bangs for the buck, great accommodations, food, service, wildlife and also some really beautiful scenery. This is all still true except for the wildlife viewing…..dismal might be a little strong of a term but not far off. There were many, many hours that would go by where we would only see an impala or a wart hog or two. Our tracker and guide only once in four days got off the vehicle to look at tracks and pretty much relied on radio chatter to find sightings.
  2. For my first trip report, earlier this year about our jaunt to Peru, I procrastinated a full 5 months before getting up the gumption to proceed. There are so many fascinating reports posted by others, who are much more interesting and knowledgeable than I in just about every subject imaginable, that I always hesitate to take up space with my own stories. In fact, I had considered skipping a report altogether this time around. However, given that we have two trips booked in 2016, and both center on places and accommodations that I would never have known about but for the generosity of other SafariTalkers who have taken the time and made great effort to report on their adventures, I felt that it would be hypocritical of me to do anything but dutifully outlay the highlights of our most recent trip. There are some folks who can convey the spirit of their experiences with just photographs and a few well-chosen words. It is a talent for beautiful minimalism that, allow me to confess upfront, I do not possess. I am a man of words, and the English major in me simply will not allow me to leave well enough alone. So, where do we begin? Ah, yes. The pangolin. It all started with the pangolin -- or, to be more precise, our desire to see one.
  3. Day 1. Afternoon drive. The trip to Kirkman’s kamp was long but uneventful and nothing could have stopped me from going to the bush as soon as possible. I was waiting for this for long 6 months. I did not expect to see a lot and the fact that I was on safari drive already made me absolutely happy. My ranger in Kirkman was JP, and my tracker was Eckson. After a short rhino walk (Eckson noticed sleeping rhinos from the road and we walked there to stretch legs. It was successful as rhinos never found out that we were there) we went to check if Charleston pride had crossed the river or they were still on the property. We found them on the beach near the crossing and they were absolutely flat. The maximum action that they were ready to show us was to raise a head and look around. JP was telling stories about the pride. This pride suffered a lot from fights with another pride. At the end only one lioness with two small cubs (her nephews) managed to survive. And this lioness did an awesome job. Both boys are now 4 years old and look great. She also taught them to hunt and this pride is famous for bringing down giraffes. The lioness herself is an amazing hunter, if I remember it correctly, during one year she brought down around 15 kudus without any help (and these are only animals that rangers know about). The evening was slow, nobody else was willing to join us and we were having the pride all to ourselves. We were sitting in the car and discussing lions’ dreams. JP suggested to wait as lions might have decided to cross the river and these would be great shots…Everything changed in seconds. Mala Mala ranger who was on another side of the river told us that he could see wild dogs moving in our direction. So we went closer to make some pictures This year dogs are denning on Kirkman’s property but they still like to cross Sand river for hunting. Dogs were running along the river and did not see lions. However the lioness noticed them immediately and she turned into hunting mode immediately. Boys were not so enthusiastic. They were raising heads, watching dogs for a few seconds and then returning to a flat position. Lions were behind bushes and dogs could not see them at all. And then even worse, dogs went down to the water and their sighting was blocked by the river band. Lioness did not lose a second. The river was a huge handicap for dogs as they could not move in water as fast as more powerful lions were able to. Alfa male did not have any chances: It is more than two weeks since that day but I can still hear how the dog was screaming. I am not one of people who dream to see a kill. I love to see predators but in a lot of cases I like to be blind and deaf. And although I started to think that I might tolerate without a hysteric a quick antelope kill this was far beyond my limits. So I was crying like a kid. To make the scene even harder the rest of the pack was staying not far and was calling from there. JP was very kind to ask a few times if I wanted to leave. My emotional part was ready to leave immediately but brains were saying that even if we had left nothing would have changed so I asked to stay and even continued to make pictures. In split seconds a lioness was joined by males I was glad that the death seemed to be quite quick, but I was so wrong. As soon as lions started to pull the dog back to the beach, he started to scream again. I was ready to join him in this, only the fact that it was our first drive with JP and he might have decided that I was totally uncontrollable made me to sit silently, I just started to sob more. After another few minutes when lions calmed down and were just resting near the dog I noticed that the dog was blinking. I asked JP if dog was still alive, he answered that dog was dead and these were just eyeballs moving when lions were touching the body. Couple minutes later dog screamed again. Thanks God, more cars arrived to see a sighting and we left. When we were starting the drive early afternoon I told JP that I did not like sundowners and I did not want to spend time on them but after this sighting I changed my mind completely. I asked JP to stop and to give me something really strong. So the rest of the evening I spent with brandy. And these are photos made by Roan Ravenhill (Mala Mala ranger) he was watching the scene from another bank. So he made photos of us watching the sighting: I learned my lesson. When I was asking the bush to show me cats, dogs and maybe a kill, I should have been more specific and I should have stressed that I did not want it all to be one sighting. We were discussing a lot after this if we should have tried to do something, and decided that it could have turned into even worse situation and it would have been very hard to live with it.
  4. Phinda means Return, as in return the area to its previous wild state so that the original animal inhabitants can survive. In personal terms, it was my own return, having visited in June 2007. Here is a link to the previous visit, entitled Phinda—“Where the h is silent, but the rhino flatulence is not” No flatulence to my knowledge with this black rhino Dates of visit: Dec 5 – 9, 2012 Reason for Choosing Phinda: Good place to see my favorite African animal, the cheetah, and the chance to see egg-laying turtles nearby at that time of year Accommodation: Mountain Lodge View from Mountain Lodge Last time I stayed at Forest Lodge because rhino tracking is done from Forest or Vlei. I wanted to try a new lodge but did so with trepidation because I thought nothing could beat Forest Lodge for the surrounding natural beauty and resident wildlife. But Mountain Lodge was up to the task! Nyala on Grounds of Mountain Lodge Mother and baby Vervet--Taken through the glass of my window Mountain Lodge Impala on Grounds of Mountain Lodge Male Nyala on Grounds of Mountain Lodge It is now a tossup as to my favorite between the two. I had #7 at Mountain, a honeymoon suite. The long walk there was good exercise. Beautiful, luxurious, artistic, Holy Moly fancy… Nursing warthog on Grounds of Mountain Lodge Giant Snail on Grounds of Mountain Lodge Baby Nyala and a Vervet on Grounds of Mountain Lodge
  5. Safari tails : Treepol and TreeMum’s adventures in Kruger, Cape Town, Kalahari and elsewhere This year I was privileged to share the wonders of safari with my mother. The trip was booked as a soft adventure and an introduction to the daily discovery and delights that a wildlife safari delivers. Mum has now been bitten by the safari bug and we plan to return in 2014. The highlights of Mum’s first ever safari were: Birdlife in the Kruger Restcamps Two young male lions (hopefully) trailing a very large herd of buffalo near Satara 3 cheetah hunting kudu Eles and lion at N’semani in Kruger Wildflowers at West Coast NP Lunch with Dikdik in Cape Town Coastal scenery on the flight from Cape Town to Walvis Bay Living Desert Tour (ex Swakopmund) Elephant gathering at Rietfontein, Etosha Meerkats at Bagatelle Cheetah with 3 x 4 month old cubs, Phinda The itinerary was: Forest Camp, Moholoholo Rehab Centre (1 night) Kruger 7 nights (2 Satara, 3 Olifants, 1 Pretoriuskop and 1 Berg-en-dahl) Hluhluwe-Umfolozi NP (Hilltop Camp 2 nights) St Lucia (Lalapanzi B&B 3 nights) Cape Town (Blackheath Lodge 4 nights) Swakopmund (Hotel Schweizerhaus 3 nights) Etosha (Dolomite Camp 1 night, Okaukuejo 2 nights, Namutoni 1 night) Bagatelle Game Lodge (3 nights) Phinda (Forest Lodge 4 nights) Photos from the safari (including accommodation) are now online. I’ll include some notes on planning at the end of the TR. Finally the 4 August has dawned and safari 2012 is here at last - the VIPs (very important pets) have been temporarily re-homed and Mum and I set out for 5 weeks in Africa. My brother and sister-in-law drove us to the newly renovated Devonport (Tasmania) airport and a quick 70 minute flight gets us to Melbourne for an hour stopover before boarding the plane for Perth. We overnighted at the unremarkable Bel Eyre Comfort Inn, where the redeeming feature was the free, convenient airport shuttle. The flight to Johannesburg from Perth was the longest I have ever experienced on this route - exactly 12 hours due to strong headwinds. I was lucky to snag the last row of 4 seats before the plane took off so we could take turns to stretch out for a snooze. The first night in Johannesburg was at the Airport City Lodge in comfy rooms with dinner at the airport Mugg and Bean. Breakfast next morning was up to the usual City Lodge standard (my first blood oranges of the trip) after which we met our guide Shelagh Webber and set out for the first night at Moholoholo Rehab Centre. Shelagh hired a 9 seater Hyundai for the first 13 days of the trip - plenty of room for us, the luggage, food supplies and Shelagh’s kitchen equipment. The dusty drive east was due to the strong winds that were battering parts of South Africa and the heavy traffic partly the result of coal trucks. We stopped at Milly's Star Stop for lunch before heading further east. We drove over Abel Erasmus pass, part of an early voortrekker route before arriving in a citrus fruit growing area with curio and citrus sellers at the roadside. Forest Lodge, Moholoholo Rehab Centre Wildlife started at the gate - 'kneeling' warthogs, nyala and giraffe. This continued during the late afternoon game drive where Mum saw her first African sunset, roosting vultures, more nyala, impala, a lone wildebeest and 4 giraffe. When the 6 lions at the rehab centre roared and the sound rolled across the Drakensbergs and I knew I was back in Africa. During the drive we smelled the potato bush that is just like boiling potatoes and is usually evident in the late afternoon and early evening. The common wild pear tree is a sweet smelling tree which (reportedly) is used for making love potions. The guide told us about the solo rhino at Moholoholo that seeks the company of the grazing hippos at night, and later we saw this unlikely trio close to the lodge. The staff served a delicious dinner of butternut and stilton soup, pepper steak (Mum had hake and prawn sauce) and chocolate fudge pudding. Following a good sleep Mum and I were both up early to see the sunrise across the Drakensbergs. Nyala graze at the front of the chalet and 2 young lambs spent the night in the shelter of the front steps. Breakfast was a delicious parfait of fresh fruit, yoghurt and muesli followed by bacon and eggs. The tour of the rehab centre was very informative and I have photos of Mum patting the cheetah and even putting on the leather gauntlet to feed the vultures (never thought this would happen!). Other animals that we saw were lion, leopard, hyena, honey badger, a 3 y.o. black rhino and a free ranging 4 month old white rhino that was being raised at the centre before being returned to her owner’s farm. Kruger NP We entered Kruger through Phalaborwa gate and soon saw several eles and impala. This began Mum’s deep interest in elephants that grew throughout the trip. We were lucky with a distant, yet clear sighting of a leopard in a tree - the late afternoon sun caught her spots beautifully. Next we saw a large herd of buffalo being optimistically tailed by 2 two year old male lions that looked longingly at this big prey but didn't push their luck. At Nsemani a pride of lions lazed with bloated stomachs - 2 males with lionesses further back in the tree line. Up at 6.10 the next morning and prowling around the campsite looking for birds - hoopoe, green wood hoopoe, a Bennett's woodpecker and a gray lourie are around the rondavels. Less welcome are the vervet monkeys, one of which stole my breakfast strawberries. After breakfast we drove the S100 where a small pride of lions is lazing. Morning tea is at the delightful Timbavati Picnic Site and lunch at N'watetsi Picnic Site. Mum and I did a Sanparks night drive during which we saw hippo, 3 lionesses, a distant porcupine, 2 genets, a disappearing civet and a chameleon. Up early next morning I was entertained by a pair of crested barbets, yellow billed hornbills and flocks of glossy starlings. Later we drove north to Olifants, via Nsemani where a lioness was walking slowly along the road. Along the way we saw zebra and eles at Ngotsi waterhole and a very large herd of buffalo, probably the same being trailed by the young lions - sadly there were no tawny shapes padding along behind the slow moving line. Stopped to admire a pearl spotted owl just before the Olifants River where we saw open-billed storks hadeda ibis, egrets, a pair of spoonbills, Egyptian geese and bathing glossy starlings. The river is scenic with lots of rocky outcrops and pools. Lunch is at the Olifants restaurant where I had bunny chow - yummy chicken curry served in a scooped out quarter loaf of bread. A knobbly fig tree shades the restaurant deck and red-winged starlings, gray louries and a black-headed oriole feast on the fruit above our heads. A short game drive revealed elephants at the Olifants and a wide drag mark made by a crocodile on its way down to the river. Bushbuck and kudu, together with the elephants from the river crossed the road in front of us on the way back to camp. My rondavel has river views and I can hear the hippos honking and smell braais cooking as the sun sets. Up at 6.45 looking for birds - a gray headed bush shrike lives somewhere near the laundry and the brown-headed parrots are breakfasting on aloes. Other breakfast birds are crested barbets, yellow and red-billed hornbills, a single gray hornbill, red-winged and glossy starlings. A tree squirrel entertains Mum but evades the camera. The first new animal of the day is a klipspringer on the rocky skyline. We had morning tea at Letaba and spent some time in the Elephant Centre where there is an elephant skeleton, lots of ele-related information and photos and the tusks of 7 Kruger 'big tuskers' with a few biographical details of these giants. Mum thought this was a great place and it was hard to get her away! Bushbuck roam around Letaba and I saw a cinnamon breasted bunting at the plant nursery. Heading north bull elephants are drinking from reservoirs where the short (and smart) animals stand on a small step to gain a height advantage. Further on we saw eles enjoying a dust bath and surprisingly, a lone roan antelope. Ate lunch at Mopani where open-billed storks, egrets, Egyptian geese and crocs could be seen from the deck. Returning to Oliphants we saw 11 bull elephants at the reservoir and closer to camp a lappet-faced vulture. There is a white-backed vulture nest along the road near the restcamp where we watched an adult feeding the demanding chick. Another beautiful Kruger evening and the hippos are honking in the river below as I write up my notes. Next morning I found a dark-capped bulbul, a black headed oriole and a white bellied sunbird all feasting on aloes near the gate. We drove south to Satara and giraffe, 2 of which were fighting, smashing necks in a fight for dominance. Further on we have sightings of a distant rhino, a peaceful breeding herd of eles and lion. We enjoyed a skottlebraai lunch (eggs, bacon and tomato) at N'watesi Picnic Site where a Spotted bush snake dropped out of a tree, eventually slithering into another near the shade area This was a zebra day as we saw 2 large dazzles with over 100 animals each as well as other smaller herds. I realised the next day was Sunday when I heard the staff singing at the restcamp church whilst at the restaurant black collared barbets hop around in the top of the knobbly fig tree . Later we departed for Pretoriuskop, passing a kori bustard which appeared to have been hit by a car (the number of speeding cars in Kruger was very worrying) and in a nearby tree a martial eagle waited to feast on the carcass. Further on we saw 2 waterbuck males squaring off, and later a cheetah. This sighting eventually turned out to be 3 cheetah hunting kudu and we enjoyed distant sightings of all 3. We had scarcely stopped talking about this than we came upon a large gathering of cars watching a leopard eating a porcupine - he was well hidden behind a bush but we saw his spotted head and neck as he tucked into the luckless porcupine. We had planned to have lunch at Tshokwane Picnic Site, however when a vervet grabbed Mum's banana before we had even put the picnic basket down we decided on boerwors rolls and peppermint crisp ice cream from the kiosk. Later we saw eles and lion at N'semani, rhino closer to Skukuza and buffalo - so the Big 5 in one day! As we settle into Pretoriuskop at dusk someone at the staff camp is whistling a song reminiscent of Love me tender as night falls. Pretoriuskop is my favourite camp as the grounds are spacious and home to a small herd of quiet impala and a wide variety of birds. Next morning I eventually photographed a scarlet chested sunbird. Leaving camp we saw a tree full of green pigeons and later some gray hornbills. A Sanparks vehicle and armed guard accompanied women cutting thatch to be used in the maintenance of park buildings. Along the road we saw 3 rhinos and at Transport dam impala, swallows, a magpie shrike and a sentinel fish eagle sitting high above the water. We stopped at Lake Panic where a pair of mating hippos had drifted close to the hide. We also saw 4 grey herons on 2 nests, crocodile, bushbuck, our first Goliath heron, African darter, malachite and pied kingfishers and jacana. On the road once more we saw a lone lioness and 4 giraffe. Stopped for lunch at Nkhuli Picnic Site where we again ordered boerwors rolls much to the delight of the resident baboons who paid close attention to our food. Closer to Berg-en-dahl we saw a lone (and very fat) lioness at a wildebeest kill and later a rhino and calf. Next morning I tried unsuccessfully to photograph scarlet chested sunbirds and purple turacos. Breakfast birds included a black-headed oriole, bulbuls, gray louries that were joined by the pesky vervet monkeys. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi is next...

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