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
- 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)
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.
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...
Edited by twaffle, 14 October 2012 - 04:58 AM.