Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kruger- Thats a Wrap!

The Olifonts Camp was spectacular! It sits high on a rocky ledge overlooking the Olifonts River. The river itself is wide and fairly shallow, although there are some deep looking channels. Reminded me of the descriptions of the Platte River in the middle of America, when it actually had water in it. All you can see now is where the Platte River once flowed… and is now just a former trickle of its self.

Stick bug

The main buildings at Olifants have just been renovated and they look very nice. Satara has not been renovated, so the difference was obvious. However, the hut at Olifants was not renovated and it too was obvious, but the A/C worked much better! So the trade off was good. The huts are currently undergoing renovation, and the one we stayed in was next on the list… they were working on the one next door… and I was able to watch how they put new thatch on! They don’t take the old one down, they just put new on top, and it’s stitched. One guy on the top doing the smoothing/aligning and one below to send the needle back up. On the patio post I found a stick bug too. They are a kind of mantis, so they are a good bug.

Fish Eagle
 From Olifants we traveled back toward Satara, and along some other roads that were new to us. We didn’t see anything much more interesting than we had already seen. We stopped at a bird hide and saw 2 Fish     Eagles on the other side of a river… There will soon be some eagle eggs! I did get a nice one of the male flying back to our side. If I had only had a slightly longer lens… it would have been a really nice flight picture.

Southern Ground Hornbill (male)
When you leave Olifonts Camp, you must cross the Olifonts River. It is one of the few places you are allowed to get out of your car. So on one of our crossing we of course stopped (we stopped every time we crossed the bridge), and as everyone was looking over the bridge, some Vervet monkeys were investigating cars that folks had left windows open! On another crossing the Baboons were on the bridge. We didn’t get out on that crossing. We also spotted the Southern Ground Hornbill. This is one big ugly bird!

We found a large Male Lion, on his own… laying in the shade, (no picture). Shortly after we arrived he ambled off. The day was promising to be another hot one and it was! The temps got up to 41 C (105 F).

baby zebar rolling
 On Day 6, we left Olifonts Camp and headed south toward our next camp, once again we were on a quiet dirt road and our first sight was seeing a young zebra rolling in the dust. His mom has just finished, but he had just started. The light was low, so it’s not the best photo, but it was cute!

Boabab Flower
The next site was a Boabab tree in bloom. In my reading up… on the tree I discovered that we were lucky!!! Wish I had taken a photo with the whole tree in the shot. These trees are huge… the trunks are very wide, and the branches are very short, like stunted. If you want to know more about the tree including the baking ingredient derived from the tree go here: BoababTree and Boabab Tree Images

Of course we saw many animals…. Impala, elephants, rhinos, giraffe, cape buffalo, wildebeest, and some of the smaller animals and birds. We did spot some Klipspringers hiding in the brush… Such a cute little guy…

the Southern plains of Kruger
As we were nearing the Lower Sabie Camp the terrain really started to spread out and become much more plains like. It was here that we saw a herd of Cape Buffalo that was more than 100. The dotted the hillside on both sides of the road. Because the Cape were also on the road, we had

African Harrier Hawk
to drive really slow so  we didn't hit a Cape; we spotted an ‘African Harrier Hawk. We checked into Lower Sabie where we had hut with a kitchen. The kitchen is not inside… it is on the patio. The hut was newer… and had a more modern A/C unit.

We went over to the restaurant just before sunset. The patio of the restaurant is built out over the sandy banks of the Sabie River. So when the sun sets and the Hippos come out of the water… you can see and hear them. Another name for a hippo is ‘Water Pig’ and it is very apparent why when you hear the sounds that they make.

Love the look on the face

There were lots of folks with cameras waiting….. along with us! The food was as usual mediocre and the 'water pigs' did not come close.

Our last full day in the park, we got up as usual at the crack dawn (to read really early) and once  again the day promised to be hot… but in this case more humidity. On our trek from Lower Sabie for the day our first sighting of the day was a pod of hippos in the water… love the look you get from this guy. Our drive took us up to Skukuza Camp, which I really wanted to see. It is where the headquarters are, along with a conference center. There was a small pond which had some spectacular water lilies.

Our drive took us along the river for most of the day, but we didn’t see too much in the way of large animals, but we did see many crocodiles and hippos. We spied a Martial Eagle having some breakfast. We Eagle  couldn’t figure out exactly what he was eating, but it looks to be a monitor lizard or a small crocodile. We called it a day early, because we wanted to cool off a bit before dinner and our last event, a nighttime game drive. It was still very warm

Martial Eagle
when we were to meet for the game drive, and I was in a hurry to have the truck start rolling, so we could be cooled by the breeze. That was a mistake!!! After dark there are a lot of bugs in South Africa. I did get a nice sunset photo, it could have been better, but again it was HOT. We saw lots of different creatures on the night drive, most reptiles it seems. 4 of the not so nice snakes … from


the truck of course, a monitor, and something you don’t see during the day- a rabbit! Actually several, but that is because they were out… The drive was nice, but I don’t think I will do another night drive. I would much rather get up early in the morning!!!!

We left Kruger leisurely on Saturday morning and made it home just afternoon. The dogs were stuck at the kennel until Monday afternoon. That gave us plenty of time to unpack, do the laundry and catch up at the house.

When I got home, one of my friends, a South African lady, said to me when I told her all the things we saw while in Kruger, “South Africa really put on her best dress and shoes for us!”. I think she was right. We saw so many animals and things unique to South Africa. The only animals we did not see on this trip was the cheetah and the wild dogs!!!

Once again, it’s long and wordy… I still have more pictures of things I saw, but these were the highlights! There are more photos and better resolution on my Flickr  page if you are interested. Leave a comment here or there on your favorites!

As always, more later -- Beth

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kruger Day 4

Before I begin… another installment of the Kruger adventure let me say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. We don’t need a national holiday to be thankful. We should practice Thanksgiving on a daily basis! Thankful that we have life first and then all the things that make life worth living- family, (both real and acquired), friends, and the ability to change or adapt! With those things anything can be accomplished.

"Bill" the Hornbill
Our 4th day in the park was pretty low key. We are still at Satara, where we stayed for 4 nights and quite frankly, ready to move on. Our hut faced an open space, where there were lots of birds and squirrels. I broke the rules accidentally, (I knew we couldn’t feed the animals), but I didn’t think feeding the birds was wrong… so I have some great pictures of ‘Bill’ the Hornbill. He even ate out of my hand. He has such a cartoon face. I think I see a quilt in there somewhere. I also had a Spurfowl and a dove eating from my hand. It’s obvious I am not the only one to have broken the rule. So we packed our stuff and headed for our next camp, about 60 km (37 miles) and approximately a 2 ½ drive…. Sight/game seeing along the way. So what did we see… on the drive? Well the temperatures were high and the sky was overcast, so there wasn’t too much activity. But this is Africa, and there are lots of animals to see.

We had heard of a lion sighting, so before heading north from Satara along a river, we dropped south along a paved road to see the lions. These lions were practically on the road. We watched them for a bit, but the only activity was a lioness moving from a sunny spot to one at the back in the shade.

The Brush
When we turned north we drove from moderate dry vegetation to a somewhat sparser and lower growing vegetation, although it was bushier so it was dense. Once again we drove slowly and I saw some flowers and on closer inspection… they were teaming with butterflies and bees. There were 2 species of butterfly on this floret. An almost white one, it had a lime or aqua cast to it… and there were quite a few on the plants. Then there was a much smaller more colorful one.

The day was warm enough that the elephants were having a great time playing in the water. At 2 different locations we saw fun. The first is an elephant cooling down by spraying water over himself. He would slip his trunk over the side of the tank, and then spray himself down. Once in a while he would take a drink. He had a partner

on the other side of the tank doing the same thing. The other was a group of elephants at a shallow water pan; several of them put their trunks in the water and exhaled making the water bubble up. Sort of like kids in the tub playing motorboat.

As we were watching the elephants another butterfly went flying past and as luck had it landed within in my sights… I don’t know the species, yet.


Wahlbergs Eagle

As we passed a large tree we spotted a Wahlbergs Eagle having lunch. Its lunch was nearly gone, but I did manage to snap a great photo or two. I wouldn’t put my finger too close to the beak. It’s sharp.

Wahlbergs Eagle

Our accommodations for the next couple of nights was at a Camp called Olifonts. It sits high on a cliff overlooking the Olifonts River. It has just been refurbished and has a marvelous deck for dining outdoors where you can watch the wild life. Our Hut had a view of the river, and from our patio we watched the Giraffes move along the tree line and hippos come out for feeding.

I’ll try and wrap up the trip to Kruger in one or two more posts… and then maybe a post of the odd photo, that I liked but didn’t have a way to insert into the blog.

If you’ve made it this far Happy Thanksgiving!

More later-Beth

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kruger –Days 2 and 3

On the second morning we had a Walking Safari. Once again, it was up before the sun and assembled for the short ride in a truck. For some reason… I thought wearing Capri’s and tennis shoes would be good clothing for a walk in the brush. I don’t think very well without coffee… and didn’t put any bug repellant on either, although I Did pack better walking clothes and bug stuff. Not smart! It is the rainy season, therefore it’s also tick season. The ticks here carry a disease, called oddly enough “African Tick Bite Fever”. After a short drive, we get off the truck, and are given some basic instructions and then, immediately start walking through long brush. After about 5 minutes I figure I’m going to have a tick… might as well enjoy the walk and experience. We are already taking Anti Malarial drugs… maybe I won’t have a tick and that will be all good.
(Remember to  enlarge a photo, click on it. Also there are a few different pictures and larger views on my Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/beth-near_chicago/)
Guides with guns

As we walk along we see some birds… it is so early in the morning
and cloudy that the camera doesn’t think it’s light enough to take pictures. The first animal we hear in the brush is an elephant. One of the Ranger Guides… goes to find it, and then signals for us to come up. Once we get there… and we see where the elephant is… we are ushered quickly away. We had come up in front of the elephant, not off to the side, where the chances of being seen are less. Bull elephants don’t like to be surprised. It was pretty cool, but not much to photograph, since we were hiding from him. Before I forget, our guides were armed with big guns... just incase we run into trouble.

Game Breakfast

As we walked along, we saw more birds, some antelope, a zebra, a wildebeest, a giraffe and 3 more animals in a spectacular setting. As we came from a tree line and looked ahead… we were announced by a pack of hyenas having breakfast. It was amazing to hear them howl, - it wasn’t really a howl. I don’t think I can describe it accurately, but it was so worth the risk of ticks! As we continued our approach, the hyenas continued to object.

Hyenas, Lion and Jackals
When we were about 30 yards out, a large yellow
lump moved. It was a lion. He didn’t stay long though. Got up, look us over and then left. In the meantime, we continued our approach and the hyenas started to move away. In the background were 2 Black Backed Jackals hoping for a snack from the hyenas. The hyenas were upset, but kept about 30 yards distant. Once we arrived at their breakfast, a wildebeest, they started to come back, but still kept their distance.

Female Hyena

A female picked up a bone and came the closest to us, (incidentally she is pregnant too). It was spectacular to be on the ground with the animals. We weren’t in any danger, as the guards were armed. We had a bit of a snack…. Near the hyena breakfast grounds and then headed back to the truck. The walk lasted about 3 hours and well worth getting up early for.

Back at the camp, we showered. I didn’t have any ticks, and that was the good news, but they are microscopic, so I have to keep an eye open. So once again we have some coffee. By now we are using the communal kitchen, where they provide sinks, counters and burners to cook a meal, but all we make is coffee, in a our camping percolator.

Satara Camp

The camp we are staying at is called Satara. It is in nearly the center of the park. From the road, I have a picture of the outside of the huts. They are round with a thatched roof, about 15 feet across inside, with 2 twin beds, closet and sink, there is a shower and stool in a very small space behind a door. The only other fixture is an air conditioner, window unit. Outside is a covered patio, with a table for 2 with

Sitings Board

chairs, a small (not dorm size) refrigerator/freezer and a lockable cupboard for food. The inside of the room is too small to take photos. But very efficient. Our hut is facing a center green area with trees and lots of birds (bird pics later).

South African Scops Owl

We checked the sighting board… to see what folks had seen the day before and what they were reporting so far in the day. The dot colors are, yellow is wild dog, white is Cheetah, blue is elephant, orange is rhino, green is cape buffalo, red is lion and black is leopard. We decided to take a road we had traveled previously… where the lions were having the zebra breakfast, hoping we’d see them again. We didn’t see them, but we did see Scops Owl, on a tree in the parking lot. Not the best photo, but again the day was overcast and he was in the shade and at about eye level for me, so I had to nearly sit on the ground for this picture! He is only about 7 inches tall so not too big.

one of 2 Males in deep brush

We didn’t see too much activity… We of course happened upon antelope, the only animal the Rangers, Drivers and Guides will guarantee you will see. We did see some zebra, elephants and giraffe.
The other male.
But what have we become in a day and half in the park? Cat JUNKIES!! We want to see the cats. And of course we found one. Actually a pair of lions, 2 males; you will often find 2 males living together, but of course one is dominate. These 2 were well apart in the scrub.

We got into the habit of driving slow enough on the dirt roads for me to spot and photograph flowers and bugs. If you drive slow enough to see them, then you will often be rewarded with enough time to scan deeper or further away and see other creatures or birds.

Saddlebilled Crane
This is an interesting Crane. It is the only crane with this coloration, so it is easy to spot and identify.

This bird is only about 2 feet tall, and the color of the grass…. with some black markings. Could easily be missed driving at the speed limit.

Kudu Buck
We also spotted a beautiful Kudu Buck. Another animal adorned with a superb set of horns. The Kudu are big animals, and the coat color goes from a dun color to a grey that really helps them blend into the foliage. I’m not sure if you have noticed in the pictures, but often the grass is beige, many of the leafless trees are grey… so some of the animals appear to be more shadow when hiding in the brush.

While driving slowly we happened upon a small herd of Waterbuck, and I caught these two play practicing. Almost looks like they were posing for me.
Waterbuck Games

A couple of other interesting pictures….

 a walking elephants reflection in a pool,

a view of the landscape,
The brush and trees of the thornveld
and 1 of a huge muddy male lion.

I have noticed that the list of followers has grown…Yeah and thanks!!! … I hope I’m not too boring…. And

As always, More Later!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kruger -Day 1, part 2

Kruger Park has many Rest Camps that have accommodations from camping to luxury suites. We did not camp and we did not stay in the Luxury accommodations. Our first camp was Satara, located centrally in the park. We stayed in the Huts, which are simple and allow you to BBQ (braai) and come complete with a refrigerator and a lockable cabinet for pantry items. There is a communal kitchen area, where burners, preparation areas and a sink are provided. We took some foods and a minimal kitchen, but our days started so early and we mostly ate at the restaurant. Not such a good idea. Probably the worst part was the food. The food/restaurant concession for all the Camps is held by the same company and the you can tell!!! So next time we will take some simple picnic kinds of foods and probably eat much better. One thing we did do is make coffee to drink when we weren’t leaving at the crack of sunrise.

After the Morning Game Drive, we grabbed showers and coffee (before we were making our own) and then headed out in the car. By 10 am it was getting hot. We didn’t have any idea how hot it was going to get… but when they say it gets hot in Kruger…. You can bet it does.

Leopard in a tree
DH and I were driving down an unpaved road that was empty, no traffic, and came around a corner to find a pickup truck (bakkie) sitting on the side of the road. We had already spotted some Vultures sitting in the trees, so when we looked up into the tree we were very surprised to find this guy. The truck moved off, and we moved into the spot they were sitting for some better photo angles. It is about 11:30 in the morning and already HOT, and even hotter in the sun. This guy was in the tree and in the shade, and he was uncomfortable too. He kept trying to take a nap, but he still had some of last nights dinner up there with him, so the flies kept buzzing him. It was amazing to see how he just balanced on the branch and was perfectly at home sleeping in this position. While we were there, no other cars came by, and we finally moved off after about a half hour. 

Same Cat different angle

On the right, you can see the
hide from breakfast

(Remember to see a picture larger, just click the picture)

As we drove very slowly down the road, we came across a small herd of elephants, 2 cows and a youngster. They moved along and didn’t really stop, I suspect the heat was suggesting to them that a bit of water and mud would make them feel better. The little guy was so cute…
Another CUTE little guy!
A bit further down the road we came across this---

Lion Family, young male center
A lion family resting in the shade. As you can see we found an adult Male, with 3 females and an adolescent male. They didn’t really move while we were there, other than to maybe follow the shade.
A large Adult Male Lion

Dash Time & Temp

So, now that you are seeing a trend here…. About hot and heat and shade, mud and water… do you wonder how hot it was? The car has an outside thermometer… and I have an iPhone, so to mark the temperature, the date and time I took a picture with the Point and Shoot… 42 C translates to 107 F. That my friends -is HOT. To add to that the air was still, so no breeze to help cool you off.

After that we took another unpaved road, we found this guy walking down the middle of the road, flapping his ears, (for cooling), when his ears went out he looked much larger than when they were folded back.

Road Walker

I just liked watching him from the back. At another water hole we found an elephant taking a mud bath.

Lilac Breasted Roller

There are lots of birds here in South Africa, and lots of them have color… These guys are called Lilac Breasted Rollers and are quite colorful. I might show a better picture later if I have one…. Still lots to go through!

Next we found a huge herd of elephants playing and splashing in a water pan. I knew that elephants wetted themselves and then threw dirt on to keep the bugs at bay, but I didn’t know that to help them cool they put water behind their ears, over the top of the head/neck areas. It was quiet fun to watch. You can see the large elephant on the right creating a shower with her trunk.

Elephant Bath

And lastly as we were calling it a day, we spotted a Jackal heading out looking for an early supper.


So after spending the day on the road in the heat we come back to our hut. The A/C is not quite cooling the room. So we head off for dinner, early, thinking we would just eat from the Sandwich menu… the food was bad again… no real surprise, but it was only our second meal, we were hoping for better. While we were eating the clouds were building- we were certainly hoping for a storm. While the room was still warm…. It was cooler than when the sun was up too. So we turned in early (it was dark out)… About an hour later the wind came up, so I turned off the ill functioning A/C unit and opened the windows! MUCH better and I fell back to sleep listening to a Thunder storm roll in.

It has taken me all day to upload and set the photos to text. Either there is something going on with Blogger or this operator needs a nap.

There are more exciting photos coming up....More Later-Beth