Kruger National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 5:48 pm
May 232011
 

Tonight is out 5th night in Kruger and it has lived up to its reputation of abundant wildlife and a wide variety. We have seen the following animals whilst we have been here (at least these are the ones we can remember), as well as a heap of birds:

lion elephant rhino cheetah giraffe
kudu nyala grysbok impala buffalo
steenbok waterbuck tsessebe wildebeest civet
hippo crocodile hyena warthog spotted genet
baboon vervet monkey zebra ostrich toad
leopard tortoise squirrel springhare bush hare  

 

Waterbuck, Kruger National ParkSouthern Ground Hornbill, Kruger National ParkKruger National Park

The first night we had to pretty much drive without stopping in order to make Letaba camp before the gates closed at 5.30pm, but we did manage to see a couple of elephants on the way. We also saw what we think was a leopard. It walked on the road directly towards us for a couple of metres then darted off into the bush. It was definitely a cat and definitely had spots and the others that saw it thought it was a leopard as well. Not a bad start!

Vervet monkey, Kruger National ParkKruger National ParkBaboon, Kruger National Park

We have finally seen quite a few elephants whilst we have been here, including a few not so happy bulls in musth (this is when they are ready to mate and search out the females and they get a bit cantankerous). One of the bulls made us back up a bit to get away from him, then after we had got past him he forced 2 other cars back a few hundred metres. Where he was there was a family of elephants, including little ones, that we were watching – all the time keeping an eye out the back of the car for the cranky old bull. They were very cute to watch, especially the little ones.

 Kruger National ParkKruger National Park

Kruger National ParkOur second night we camped at Balule, which is a satellite camp. As such, it only had 15 sites and no electricity. The ablutions were lit with kerosene lamps and each site was on the camp fence which made it much more rustic and bush like than the larger campsites. Whilst we were there for lunch I heard a loud crack of a tree and knew an elephant was very close. Sure enough just a few metres away there he was. He was not particularly happy that Wayne and I were standing maybe 3 metres from him so trumpeted and swayed at us. Needless to say I backed up, but Wayne stayed there. Yes the camp has a fence around it, but if an elephant decided it wanted to push through I am sure it could without too much trouble. IKruger National Parkn the photo you can see how close he was to the fence!

Our third night was back at Letaba and we decided to do the night drive. We saw a few animals including a couple of new ones, but nothing terribly exciting. It is interesting to do the night drives though and our guide was extremely knowledgeable.

Our fourth night was at Shingwedzi camp. Again our campsite was right on the fence and we saw a spotted genet and a civet. The civet is a really beautiful animal about the size of a small dog, with a white and black coat covered in spots and stripes. It came right past the fence 4 times whilst we sat there. Very cool!

Kruger National ParkTawny Eagle, Kruger National ParkKudu, Kruger National Park

Tonight we are camping at Punda Maria. We are on the fence again tonight, so who knows what we might see. I doubt it will be much though as the wildlife seems to be more dispersed the further north you go, however we did manage to see Nyalas and Grysbok today which we have not seen before. They also have cheeky monkeys in the camp. We were sitting at lunch and heard this loud noise from inside the car. It was a damn vervet monkey who took off with yesterday’s loaf of bread. We should have known better as we knew they were around, but forgot to close the car doors. That is the second time now a monkey has managed to take something. The first was in Addo when a monkey came out of nowhere and took the bananas from the table.

Sharpes Grysbok, Kruger National ParkLeopard tortoise, Kruger National ParkNyala, Kruger National Park

Cheetah, Kruger National ParkThe highlight of our time here has to be our 2 cheetah sightings. The first time there were 4 of them. They sat on top of a hill in the grass for quiteCheetah, Kruger National Park some time and even though they were a reasonable distance away we could still see them and through the binoculars they were spectacular. We then saw a cheetah lying about 12 metres from the road. Now that was awesome. They are huge, almost as big as a lioness, and just beautiful creatures.

We have both enjoyed our time here and are thinking we may spend our last few days in Africa back here, especially down the south where the animals are meant to be even more plentiful.

Lion, Kruger National ParkKruger National ParkKruger National ParkHippos, Kruger National ParkBuffalo, Kruger National ParkTsessebe, Kruger National Park

Back to South Africa

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:01 pm
May 192011
 

Debengeni FallsAfter our morning game drive in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, we headed off back to South Africa. The border crossing was simple and we both wished that all the crossings to come could be that easy! The day was pretty uneventful until we got closer to our overnight stop of Mokopane. As it was election day, for some reason the South African government declared it a public holiday, so there were people around everywhere. On the outskirts of town there were large settlements, although they had decent, small houses with reasonable sized land. I made the comment that it looked like a version of Soweto, but with a larger number of decent houses. We felt safe, but were on higher alert. On the way to town the road was blocked and we could see a large crowd and lots of lights flashing. It turned out to be a road accident with police and ambulances in attendance and a significant crowd had gathered to watch as if it was their afternoon’s entertainment. I was initially on edge until we realised it was a road accident and police were directing traffic. We then arrived in Mokopane itself. I instantly got the feeling there was something not quite right about the place and I felt uneasy. Every time we stopped at traffic lights I was nervous. At the last set of lights we stopped at 2 young guys tried to open the rear passenger doors of our car. Luckily we drive with the doors locked, especially so if we feel uneasy or there are people about, so they were unsuccessful and we drove away. I had had enough by then and wanted to get out of the town instantly even though we had not yet found our overnight stop so we found the road out of town and left. It turned out that our overnight stop was about a kilometre down the road out of town so we pulled in to check it out. We stayed the night at the Mokopane Breeding Centre as we originally planned as it had security and high fences around the entire premises and we felt safe. After speaking to the people that run the place, it turns out that the traffic lights where they tried to get into our car is known for people trying to grab things off the seats of vehicles, so we were lucky our doors were locked. My initial instincts were absolute right! We had a brief look around the breeding centre, which breeds animals for Pretoria Zoo.

First stop this morning was the supermarket as we were low on supplies. In Pietersburg we managed to find the biggest and newest supermarket that we have seen since we first stocked up in Johannesburg. It was a luxury to have great meat and vegetables to choose from as well as anything else we could possibly need. I doubt we will encounter such luxury for quite some time!

Sunland BaobabWe decided this morning to head off to Kruger and see if we can get in a night earlier, which meant we needed to be at Phalaborwa Gate by 4pm at the latest to make the camp gate closing time. We still had time though to drive via the Magoebaskloof Pass and drop in at Sunland BaobabDebengeni Falls and the Sunland Baobab Tree. The falls are quite pretty and worth a quick detour if you are passing by. The Sunland Baobab is also worth a look. It is supposed to be 6000 years old and the biggest baobab tree. Actually inside the tree a small bar has been created which is pretty unique.

We made the gate by 3.45pm and managed to secure the last campsite at Letaba, although in true African style, the campsite probably had one third of its campsites vacant even though the computer system said they had none. Very frustrating if you can’t get in when you know there are vacant sites. We will spend the next 5 nights exploring Kruger.

Khama Rhino Sanctuary

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:33 pm
May 172011
 

After one final game drive we left the Central Kalahari and headed towards Rakops for fuel and if we were lucky, some meat. As you can only take chicken through the vet fence into the Kalahari, after 4 nights we were a bit over it. No such luck, so pasta with veggies and tinned spam for dinner then, which is not as bad as it sounds, just add a bit of chilli and it’s fine.

White Rhino, Khama Rhino SanctuaryToday we passed through 4 vet fences, none of which stopped us, so a load of good they are doing! We arrived at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary just before 4pm, in perfect time for a game drive, so off we headed. 5 minutes in and we had seen our first white rhino at the pan, along with the inevitable springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest and impalas. A few minutes later and the next rhino grazed right beside us and then crossed the road in front of our car. Maybe 10 minutes later when we reached the Serwe Pan there were 4 rhinos in the pan right in front of us, another 4 off to the right a bit and we had passed I think another 3 on the way there! We sat and watched them for a while and another 2 joined Eland, Khama Rhino Sanctuarythem. It was almost too easy! (We did a game drive on the way out in the morning and didn’t see one rhino, so the afternoon is definitely the time to go). Driving a bit more and we had 3 rhino, including a baby graze beside us and in front of the car. We also finally saw some Eland which are new for us, but they are near impossible to take a picture of as they are so shy and by the time you see them they have darted off into the bushes. To add some variety we also saw a group of giraffes, a few kudu, some warthogs and some steenboks. The sanctuary is definitely worth stopping at if you are passing through, especially if you have not seen rhino before.

Khama Rhino SanctuaryWhite Rhino, Khama Rhino SanctuaryWhite Rhino, Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Steenbok, Khama Rhino SanctuaryThe campsites are nice, all separated from each other, although you occasionally heard traffic noise from the main road and there was a phone tower glowing red right in front of us, so not exactly the perfect bush experience. They did though have wonderful hot showers which we took full advantage of, especially after having to conserve water in our bush showers over the last 4 nights. It rained a bit during the night which helped washed some of the dust off the tent and car.

Tomorrow we head for the border & back into South Africa for about a week.

Central Kalahari

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:07 pm
May 162011
 

We left Maun and headed for the Central Kalahari where we would spend the next 4 nights. At Makalamabedi we crossed the veterinary fence where the car had to drive through a solution to wash the wheels and we had to step in some liquid that was apparently soda ash to clean everything in order to contain foot and mouth disease. In typical African style, there was no concern that we had cow dung splattered all over the wheel arches and other shoes that we didn’t wash.

The road along the vet fence to the Central KalahariWe immediately turned right and followed the veterinary fence all the way to the entrance of the Central Kalahari. stopping to collect firewood along the way. At first it was reasonably soft, dry sand which definitely needed 4wd and low tyre pressures, but it became much more solid after a while and less bumpy, so it didn’t take as long as we expected. (Our GPS said something like 6 hours from Maun to the entrance and the lady at the National Parks office said 3, but you can’t always believe their estimates as half the time they haven’t driven there anyway). We were pleasantly surprised that it was only about 3 hours and she was right. At the entrance gate we filled up all our containers with water for showering to see us through the next 4 days (the water at the gate is far cleaner than the water in Maun).

Gemsbok, Central KalahariThe Central Kalahari was not at all what either of us was expecting. Everything you read says it is a sandy desert and arid, so of course we expected a real desert. It was nothing like that. Yes it is a desert as there is very little water, however there was long golden grass everywhere as well as lots of bushes and even trees. We were told by a local guide that the grass does disappear later in the dry season, but even so, there are still bushes and trees.

There are a lot of animals there, most of which congregate around the various pans (Deception Valley being the most popular) however the variety is lacking. There were thousands of gemsbok and springbok, very closely followed by wildebeest and then ostriches. We did see a couple of bat eared foxes, which we have never seen before, a couple of kudu and warthogs, several steenbok and I think we saw a couple of  Gemsbok, Central KalahariSpringboks, Central KalahariWildebeest, Central Kalahari

caracals, but they disappeared too quickly to be sure. We didn’t even manage to see a lion, although we were told by a couple of other groups that there was a lion sitting about 200m from where we were camping, and we only heard them once, which was quite disappointing when everyone else seemed to be seeing them, but that is the luck of the draw on safari. On our last night we think we heard some sort of antelope being killed, presumably by the lion that was near our camp, as there was this squeal of pain which got weaker and then was gone. After 4 days of gemsbok and springbok we had definitely had our fill.

Vultures, Central KalahariCentral KalahariStarling, Central KalahariSteenbok, Central KalahariYellow-billed Hornbill, Central KalahariBat-eared fox, Central Kalahari

Kori 4 Campsite, Central KalahariWe camped the first and last night at the National Central KalahariParks owned Kori 4 and Kori 1 campsites for a total of $9 each night, and the 2nd and 3rd nights at the Bigfoot owned sites Passarge 3 and Sunday Pan 2 for a total of $50 each night. The sites are 100% identical and if I were to do it again I would use only the National Parks owned campsites and take day trips to the other pans, although the NP sites are around Deception Valley which seems to be the most popular place for the animals anyway. The campsites are the real bush experience with pit toilets and bucket showers, but they were great as they were remote and not fenced and you could not hear another person. Ground Squirrel, Central Kalahari

Even though it was not what we expected, I am glad we visited even if we didn’t see the lions and would probably do it again, but as I said base myself around Deception Pan the whole time, taking trips to Passarge Valley and the waterholes.

Maun

 Posted by Elizabeth at 10:08 am
May 122011
 

Rock paintings at Tsodilo HillsOur night at Tsodilo Hills was interesting. There were cows throughout the campsite, one of them with a lovely LOUD bell on it! We chased them out of camp several times but they kept coming back. At one stage during the night we could hear one of them right below our tent making one hell of a racquet. I don’t know what it was doing exactly, but boy was it noisy.

Our guide was supposed to arrive at 7.30am so we could do the walk to see the rock paintings. Not surprisingly, given this is Africa and he probably didn’t wear a watch, by 8am he had not turned up. Luckily the curator of the museum took us instead. It is a 2 hour walk, part of which you need to scramble and climb up over rocks, which was pretty hard work and then there is an even longer section where you need to scramble down, which thankfully wasn’t so hard but was slow going being careful not to slip and having to ease your way down. The rock paintings were interesting to see and the walk was quite pleasant so I am glad we did it. Elephant on the way to Maun

We left there and headed towards Maun, passing through a couple of roadblocks, none of which were any issue. Our fridge was checked once for meat but that was it. We saw our first wild elephant on the side of the main road yesterday which was cool. It makes a change from the hundreds, if not thousands of cows, goats, donkeys, sheep and horses we are normally dodging on the roads. Hopefully we will start to see more wild animals along Elephant on the way to Maunthe roads as we head north.

We arrived in town just after 3pm and managed to book our car in for a service for this morning and organise our campsites for the Central Kalahari all by 4.30. A miracle in African time! The campsites in the Kalahari are managed by the National Parks and Bigfoot Safaris. Only the NP Office is in Maun, the other is in Gabarone, so you need to coordinate between the 2 to organise your bookings (you cannot turn up without a booking). The ladies in the NP Office were very helpful and rang Bigfoot for us and we managed to get sites between them for 4 nights. We have 2 nights at national park sites (at only 60 Pula or $9) and 2 nights at Bigfoot sites (at 336 Pula or $50). just a slight difference in cost and I doubt the sites themselves are any different! We head off tomorrow to the Kalahari, which we are looking forward to as it is remote, we should be camping by ourselves without amenities, and we might get lions in camp (even though I will be scared if that happens it will be awesome – just hope I am in the tent!).

Last night and tonight we will spend at Audi Camp. It is quite nice with a pool, bar and large restaurant. We ate in the restaurant last night and had a few drinks for a total of about $40. They also have Wi-Fi (that you pay for) which allowed us to finally update things. There was an overland group and a couple of other largish groups in camp but they didn’t disturb us, I could imagine though that it could get crowded and quite noisy at times.

We are currently waiting for our car to be serviced and will then stock up on food, water, fuel and money before we head off into the Kalahari tomorrow.

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