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I am a new member but have been a keen follower of Safari Talk for some time and would very much like to thank Matt for a wonderful website and to all the members for such interesting trip reports and discussions. I have been hesitant to post a trip report, as ours seem very ordinary compared to the wonderful trips I read about but to us our trips have been an extraordinary experience and being able to share this is a joy and privilege. I have been encouraged by comments from people like Tom K and others that all experiences are of interest and also that the photos don’t have to be of high quality – I just have a point and shoot digital camera but hope the attached images will add to the report. Our interest in safari started when our younger daughter and husband were lucky enough to win a trip to Singita Boulders in Sabi Sand for 2 nights and came home glowing about the experience. As retired farmers and animal lovers this really piqued our interest and so I started some research. We had travelled extensively in Australia, travelling nearly 30000kms in rental vehicles over 7 trips but had never thought of venturing further afield (our home is New Zealand). Our budget would nowhere near accommodate luxury lodges like Singita, the airfares from our home in New Zealand to South Africa are pretty expensive and we had a few health and age limitations. But after much research I found a package trip from Tydon Safaris – pick up from either Johannesburg or Nelspruit, 6 days at Tydon camp which is situated right beside Shaws gate into Sabi Sand, game drives in Sabi Sand and to Kruger National Park and transfer back to Johannesburg via the Panorama route. This was within our budget and the chance to see both Sabi Sand and Kruger really appealed as did the fact that the accommodation was in permanent tents which we had enjoyed on our trips to Australia. June 2012 Day 1 A long flight from our home in New Plymouth New Zealand, with delays and long stopovers, but finally arrived, after about 36 hours, at Nelspruit. Debbie from Tydon Safaris picked us up and it was about an hour and a half drive to the Tydon camp which is right beside the Shaws Gate into Sabi Sand. This was our first time in South Africa – first impressions on the drive were of dust, colour, people walking everywhere, women carrying loads on their heads with such balance and grace. Roadside stalls everywhere with all sorts of fruit, art pieces, carvings, rows of tablecloths hanging on lines . Arriving at the camp we were shown to our tent (basic but very clean and all we needed with ensuite, a comfortable bed ) and after a shower and a lie down we had lunch at 2pm and then set off for our first game drive with our guides Debbie and Jackie and one other guest from Australia. Our first sighting was a breeding herd of elephants We were astounded how close we could get to them, how relaxed they were and fascinated the way they used their feet and trunks to pull the grass. There were all ages including some quite young calves. Other sightings on that drive were bushbuck, zebra, wildebeest, water buck and lilac breasted roller. We stopped for sundowners and watched a beautiful sunset then set off again with Jackie spotlighting. The highlight was 4 rhinos – first a large male on the side of the track, he wasn’t at all settled so we left him in peace. Then we found a female with a very young male calf and a young female (possibly last years calf). They were very settled and we watched them for some time, seeing the little one frisking around – simply amazing for our first drive. Heading back to the camp we found a large breeding herd of elephants and what a magical experience – Debbie turned off the engine and turned off the spotlight and we sat there in the moonlight surrounded by elephants grazing, moving so silently for such big animals, listening to their gentle rumbles. What an amazing first drive, our tiredness from the long flight a distant memory! Day 2 Our tent was very comfortable and we had a great sleep. Not too early a start today as we are heading off for a full day in Kruger. On the way to Kruger we saw a group of male Kudu through the fence in Sabi Sand – magnificent animals. Our first sighting on the bridge to Paul Kruger gate was a giant kingfisher sitting on the rails. Through the gate and into Kruger, a car stopped and the driver pointing to something – a leopard! Just a brief sighting but what a great start. Lots of impala and then something I had been longing to see – giraffe on the road. So tall and move so smoothly and elegantly. I spotted some dwarf mongoose on the side of the road but they disappeared quickly, lots of hippos in the river. We stopped at Sunset Dam, so much to see – baboons coming for a drink, crocodiles on the bank, hippos, warthogs, Maribou storks, giraffe in the distance, heads popping up above the trees. Lunch at Lower Sabie and then back on the road, more giraffe, zebras, grey duiker, kudu and then we spotted a big bull elephant at a waterhole. We watched him drinking, then he came towards us and Debbie thought she might have to move out of his way but he was heading for the edge of the dam where he proceeded to stir up the mud with his foot then had a marvellous time squirting mud over himself, stirring up more mud with his tusks and getting down and rolling in the mud. We thoroughly enjoyed our first day in Kruger – on the way back to the gate we saw a Tawny Eagle and a Bateleur circling in the sky, tree squirrels, francolin crossing the road, gorgeous coloured Cape Glossy starlings and a young giraffe having a drink from his Mum.
Well, it’s been several days since my wife and I came back from our second African safari trip and I’d better start my TR before the memories fade away (not that my memories from safari fade away easily, but still…). Since last year we debuted in Eastern Africa - Kenya (Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria, Lake Naivasha, Selenkay Conservancy, Amboseli NP, Ol Kyniei and Naibosho conservancies) we decided to get an idea about the southern part of the continent. The list of places to visit was long, time and funds were limited, so it took quite a lot of planning, starting from September 2013. There were two iconic places in Southern Africa, which we wanted to see – Cape Town and Victoria Falls, so I did my best to integrate them into the itinerary, while keeping the time spent there to a minimum (so we will have the bulk of our trip spent on safari. In terms of national parks / reserves I really wanted to see some of the private reserves adjacent to Kruger NP plus the Okavango Delta, so the trip took place in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe (shortly, just for the Zim side of VF) and Botswana. This first TR will cover the RSA part of the trip. For the Zim-Zam and Botswana portion of the journey, I will write a separate report in the Botswana section. The trip took place between May 16 and June 05, as you know the weather patterns in Cape Town are kind of tricky - the opposite from the rest of the country, so timing was not easy. We wanted also to see a green bush, without the rains, though. When considering other facts, like the water level of the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls, availability of well priced lodges and camps, time off from work, timing really turned out to be quite a challenge. The RSA part of the trip was designed entirely by myself – booked hotels, activities, lodges, domestic flight tickets separately, one by one. For the Botswana section I used a very competent local agent in Maun – Nadine from Safari Specialists (also known as Safari Destinations). I will write more about them in the Botswana TR. Itinerary: 2 nights in Cape Town. 3 nights at Motswari Lodge, Timbavati Private Game Reserve. 3 nights at Elephant Plains Lodge, Sabi Sand. 1 “technical” overnight in Johannesburg. 1 night at Maramba River Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia. 2 nights at The Old House B&B, Kasane, Botswana. 1 night in Maun, Botswana. 2 nights at Pelo Camp, Jao Concession in the Okavango Delta (Wilderness Safaris). 3 nights at Sango Camp, Khawi Community area, Botswana. Everything was very carefully planned by the hour and the funny thing is that the plan actually worked 100 %. On our BA flight from London Heathrow to Cape Town we got an unexpected bonus – great aerial views of the Namib desert and Walvis Bay (as far as views from a commercial flight go): Sea salt processing facilities in Walvis Bay, Namibia: Landing in Cape Town: Isn't this the best view one could get from an airport? Regarding Cape Town - what is the best thing one could do in CT for one half and one full day? Best answer: hire a pro photographer guide with a car for the entire duration of the stay and do not hire just anyone, get James Gradwell - a great pro and owner of Photography Tours, Cape Town. The guy is really bright, very knowledgeable, knows the very best spots for photography in town and around the Peninsula and is flexible, decisions regarding where to go are made on the spot depending on weather and your preferences. If this is not enough, I will mention that James is also a qualified safari guide and has worked in several game reserves in RSA. To say that we had lots to talk about (from photography, history to safaris and wildlife) would be a serious understatement. We were extremely lucky with the weather in CT – two beautiful sunny days, which helped for excellent landscape and even wildlife photography. I will not bother you too much with the landscapes (will post just a few, this is a safari forum, after all). We stayed at an excellent location – Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, right at V & A Waterfront, so we were able to walk around the area even before we started our tour with James. We loved Cape Town, the city reminds me a bit of Vancouver, BC with the ocean and the mountains in view. James Gradwell showed up on time at the hotel lobby and we decided to start the photo tour with the colourful houses of Bo-Kaap (the Malay Quarter), just stopped at the City Hall for a quick photo: Sorry for the non-safari photos, it is quite a temptation to post them, though, since they are a lot easier to shoot than longer lens wildlife shots
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.
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