A Travellerspoint blog

Fun, Fishing and Hijinks at the Southern Tip of Africa

SATURDAY 11 JULY 2009
OFF TO STRUIBAAI
Finally, the great day of departure had arrived. Jay and Joshua’s two friends, Leo and Daniel slept over last night, all the luggage was packed and we just needed to pack the food and overnight bags, hook the trailer to my Caravel and leave.
The house was dark and silent when I arose and crept about doing those last minute chores and ticking off my checklist. I always have a phobia that a vital item will be forgotten and then because of it the holiday will be ruined! Once I was satisfied, I woke Earl and when we were almost ready, we got the four excited boys out of bed, gave them a quick bowl of cereal and by 7:30 we were on our way – the boys and I following Grandpa and Greg who were towing the ‘cat’ Kiora. As we left, I told the boys to say a silent prayer to God to look after us. Jay decided that he would say the prayer aloud and said, “Dear God, please protect us on this trip, make sure we don’t crash and keep us safe and Grandpa and Greg too.” “Did you hear the prayer, Grandpa and Greg?” he’d pressed in the button of his walkie-talkie while he prayed! “Yes thank you Jay,” came Greg’s reply.
By way of explanation – Greg is 21 years old and crews on Whale Rider and Kiora for Earl. He will be fishing in the competition at Kleinbaai next Saturday and it is his penance to help look after the boys this week!
I checked the time on the dashboard clock and at the same time noticed the fuel gauge. I had forgotten to fill up! So Jay was once again given the opportunity to call his grandfather to inform him that would stop for Diesel in Fish Hoek.
As we travelled, we watched a stunning sunrise as Cape Town was graced with yet another clear sunny day. The temperature, however, did not rise above 15⁰. Earl stopped in Grabouw to buy meat at a friendly butchery whose fare is the best in the Western Cape! I continued and the trip was smooth with only one stop/go and very little traffic. The boys were chatty but well behaved and played the odd game of car cricket but otherwise just enjoyed each other’s company. Daniel’s mom had packed each boy a snack pack so I did not have to worry about handing out from the general one with contributions from all. We have so much ‘lekkergoed’ that I doubt we will get through it all!
I tried to make the trip educational and gave snippets of information from time to time – we are on Baden-Powell Road – note the birdlife here – do you see any oystercatchers on Strandfontein beach – we are now on the N2 –We are passing through Somerset West – this mountain pass is called Sir Lowry’s. At the bottom of the pass we have the turnoff to Grabouw village – Grandpa is getting our meat there. Now we turn into Caledon – we are halfway there now – two more towns – Napier and Bredasdorp then we turn off to Struisbaai. I also pointed out the birdlife. Jay and Joshua remembered the names of some but the other boys were new to birding. They did know the national bird was THE BLUE CRANE – there was a huge flock in a field just outside Caledon. A few minutes after giving them the information I tested them – what is the name of the pass we have just been over, what is the town we have just been through? They gave me some amusing answers – Canada! - for Caledon – Sir Laurie’s pass for Sir Lowry’s – omigosh – hopefully they will get it on the way home!
We left the petrol station at 7:50 and after a splendid 215km drive, arrived at our holiday house at 10:25. Earl and Greg arrived half an hour later, which was not bad going since he was towing a boat and stopped to buy meat.
While we were waiting for the guys to arrive, Jay and Leo walked to the beach and Daniel rode around on one of the bikes. Then again, after they’d helped unpack, they hopped on the bikes and went to explore Struisbaai.
I made ham and avo rolls for lunch, and then Earl and Greg took them for a drive to Agulhas. They made a noisy return at 14:00 and then raced off on their bikes again.
After tea, they all jumped into the back of the Hi-Lux and Earl took them to the dunes where they clearly had a ball. While they were gone, I prepared the braai salads and then went to the shop to get the boys a pack of cards, drawing books, crayons, pencils, and more juices for tomorrow.
We braaied steak, chops and sausage and the kids ate like the growing boys they are! After supper, they set up their beds and after a bit of hi-jinks we all sat down and watched Strictly Come Dancing on T.V!
SUNDAY 12 JULY
DE HOOP NATURE RESERVE
We got up at half past eight this morning. Earl said it was not a good day for fishing so we should take the boys to de Hoop. He set about making a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, tomato, bacon and banana on toast and by 9:30, we were packed and ready to go. “You would never get my family out of the house so quickly,” Daniel pipe up. “We always take hours to get ready!”
Welcome to our life, Danny boy!
The rain held off and it was a pleasant drive to the reserve. On the way, we saw blue crane, one or two jackal buzzards, a few grey and black headed herons, pied starlings, common fiscals, bokmakieries, canaries and weavers. In one farm field, we saw flocks of Egyptian and Spur wing geese interspersed with grey herons and pied starlings. The boys did not know much about birds but they showed a great deal of interest. We also spotted a number of yellow mongooses in the farmlands.
As we entered the park, we spotted three ospreys flying overhead. We concluded that they must have been a male and female with their fledgling. We also saw a black sparrow hawk but could not get good photographs of any of these birds. The first buck we saw were bontebok of which there are many in the park. Koppie Allen was our first stop and we took a walk down to the beach. The boys were thrilled to see an accessible sand dune and raced up to play on it. Greg, Earl and I continued to the beach and explored the rocks before the boys came to join us. Two beautiful African Black Oystercatchers sunned themselves on a rock and I saw Cape weavers in the dune vegetation as well as a prinia and some bulbuls. After examining the life in the rock pools and some scrambling over rocks we made our way back. The boys ran ahead and as it was low tide discovered the cave! The adults left them to play, climbed up to the outlook, and scanned the bay for whales – luck was with us and we observed three frolicking happily in the bay.
I had to go back to drag the boys away from their ‘strandloper’ cave and they were quite disappointed when I explained that nobody would have lived in a cave that the tide washed into on a daily basis. However, I said, they probably used it as a daytime shelter. That consoled them.
By this time, it was after one and all the activity had stimulated the young appetites and so we headed for the restaurant which has been up and running for a year now. As we arrived, I noticed some unusual looking buck and made Earl do a u-turn to check them out. They were eland – lovely to see as they are not very common.
The menu did not indicate anything appealing for kids and so I suggested they go for a mussel starter – but the faces said it all – they wanted junk food! Fortunately, the friendly owner noticed and said, what do you want for lunch? “Hamburgers!” came the reply. The waitress said – “he is not the waiter – hasn’t your mother taught you not to talk to strangers? We have pizza – what kind would you like? “ The faces lit up and in unison they all said, “Hawaiian” Except Jay – he dithered as he really loves mussels but in the end he couldn’t resist what the others had chosen. Greg doesn’t eat mussels but Earl and I decided to have a starter portion each, and we all had the cob with a mild curry sauce and vegetables. I knew that Jay and Josh would help me with the mussels but ended up having only one as the other two decided that they looked two delicious to miss! Next time I will insist that they have ‘proper’ food and skip the kids’ pizza – if there is a next time!
After lunch the weather turned for the worse and it poured all the way home. We’d heard that it had been stormy and miserable in Cape Town all day so we were not surprised that it had caught up with us too. I hope that tomorrow will clear up because these boys are dying to fish.
Once home they played cards for a while then got itchy feet and jumped onto the bikes and rode to the harbour. They returned begging to go back to fish off the harbour wall but they did not have the right tackle.
Earl and Greg went to get two pizzas for supper and together with the left over ones from lunch this is what we had for supper. We went to bed at 8:30 leaving the boys to watch a bit of television. It was late before they finally quietened down and went to sleep!
MONDAY, 13 JULY 2009
WRECK MUSEUM
We woke up to the sound of pelting rain at half past seven this morning. Oh no – a wet and cold day – what will we do now? We roused everybody (they only got to bed at 11 o’clock last night), gave them scrambled eggs, kidneys, bacon and mushrooms for breakfast then set off to the Maritime Museum in Bredasdorp. After exploring its every nook and cranny and resisting the temptation to touch the fascinating exhibits and to climb onto ox-wagons, old hearses and ancient fire trucks we did some shopping at the Spar and returned to Struisbaai. The sun was shining in Bredasdorp but as we got closer to Struisbaai, the weather got worse. It poured and so boat fishing was out of the question. Undaunted the intrepid anglers, equipped with new hooks and frozen bait made their way to the harbour and spent a cold and wet hour casting their lines – but no luck. They radioed Captain Grandpa to fetch them and returned wet and bedraggled.
They changed into dry clothes and then played cards, did a few charades and then hopped on the bikes and raced off as soon as the sun peeped out again.
Earl, Greg and I prepared a curry for supper and it is bubbling on the stove in its big black pot as I write. A landscaper came and measured up and gave us a quote to fix our lawn, plant a rockery and some other indigenous plants in our garden. The boys came back from riding just as he left and Earl and Greg piled them into the Caravelle and they’ve gone off to climb to the top of the Agulhas lighthouse, while I have a couple of hours to relax!
The returned with stories of what fun they had. They climbed to the top of the lighthouse then went to the southernmost point where Greg took photographs to prove that it happened!

TUESDAY 14 JULY 2009
FISHING
Last night we told the boys to go to bed straight after “Survivor” but we heard them until much later than that. This morning I found that they had not gone to their beds at all but had slept on the couches in the lounge and Jay had passed out on the Lazy Boy! They all declared that they’d slept very well thank you. Greg said he’d encouraged them to go to their own bed but they’d refused! Boys!
It was freezing when Earl got up to check the weather at half past seven. The rain had gone and the sea was calm so he rallied the lads and whipped up another stunning breakfast, which they quickly wolfed down, and off they went. I, the chief cook and bottle washer, only got out of bed once they’d left and quickly tidied up. I took a load of wet and sandy clothes to the laundry, picked up a few supplies and then returned to relax and read my book! No sooner had I sat down to do this diary when the cell sang out and it was Earl to tell me – “Daniel caught lunch – a lovely big red roman!” Well done, Danny!
They returned at 2 o’clock and I went to the harbour to meet them and take photographs. There was a slight mishap when the Toyota was stuck in the mud as Greg tried to pull the boat out of the water. They had to take the boat off again. Luckily, there was a chap with a 4x4 at the harbour and he kindly towed Earl out using the anchor rope! Greg had wanted to use the other slipway but Earl thought it would be okay. So they had to go to plan A, anyway!
The boys all caught fish, some being sharks which they threw back. After the boat was washed and the fish cleaned, Earl fried their catch and they ate with relish! Daniel was particularly proud to be eating fish that he caught himself.
After lunch, Greg dropped them at the dunes where they built ‘forts’ and ‘bases’. There is no keeping them still while the sun is shining. They told Greg to fetch them at 6 o’clock. But at quarter to six, they phoned to say, “Please can we stay until 7 o’clock.” Greg and Earl were already on their way to the shop and to collect the intrepid explorers, but when they arrived they allowed them to play a little longer. Jay forgot to appreciate the privilege and tried to hide when Earl called them to get into the bakkie. To teach him a lesson he left without him and made him walk for quite a while. He was very upset when he arrived home. It was his own fault but he couldn’t see it that way. I told him that he should think about it and reminded him that his grandfather and I had warned him several times about his attitude. It didn’t take long for him to get over it and he was soon back with the group enjoying every minute of the rest of the evenings activities – singing in front of the fire, playing soccer in the dark and performing in front of the adults after supper. They decided once again to sleep in the lounge and we heard the chatting continue to well after 10 o’clock.
WEDNESDAY 15 JULY 2009
ARNISTON
Another ‘Early’ breakfast had everybody out of bed, dressed, and ready for another action-filled day. It was too windy to go to sea so we decided to take a drive to Arniston. On the way, we looked out for interesting birds and wild life, being particular hopeful of spotting a Denham’s bustard of two. We were in luck! We spotted springbok, yellow mongoose, grysbok, guinea fowl in flocks of over 50 each, weavers, bokmakieries, stonechats, Cape sparrows, grey herons, black headed herons, hadedas, sacred ibis, cattle egrets, little egrets, blacksmith lapwings, crowned lapwings and many other common birds. I encouraged everybody to look out for the bustard when suddenly I spotted a small flock of blue crane and at a distance in the same field more than 20 Denham bustards dotted about. We have seen these birds before but never so many all together. I checked the bird book and it did mention that they are seen in either pairs or small flocks. This is by far the biggest flock I have ever seen.
We drove around Arniston and then took the boys to the big sand dune near the famous cave. We did not end up exploring the cave as the dune was a great attraction and they spent a couple of happy hours running up and down and rolling in the sand. Greg walked to the cave but as it was so cold I decided to stay in the car and read my book.
We got back at lunchtime, gave the boys rolls and left over steak and fish from yesterdays meals and as soon as they were finished, they raced off to the harbour with their fishing rods. Earl and Greg joined them an hour or so later.
While I had the house free I did a quick clean up of the cesspit they called their bedroom. I unearthed wet towels, discarded underwear, damp fishing clothes and smelly socks. I folded the sleeping bags, swept the beach from the floor and hung up the wet things.
The car, too, needed a spring-clean so I did a rubbish removal and sand excavation from there too. Nobody noticed but it made me feel better
At 4 o’clock they returned from the harbour and immediately left with Earl and Greg to go ‘real’ fishing down the big beach.
They had fun trying to catch fish at the big beach and when they got back, they got on their bikes and went to the harbour again. Daniel hurt his foot and he and Josh came back and had a bath. In the mean time, Jay and Leo found that there were some ‘big’ small fish in the harbour. Jay came back to fetch a bucket and encouraged Josh and Dan to return to the harbour. They did - in their pyjamas! At quarter to seven, we sent Greg to fetch them! Belinda phoned to speak to Leo. I had to explain that we’d lost her son! She didn’t believe me until I explained that the boys refused to come home!
For supper we had ribs, chops, sausage, sweet potatoes, butternut, cauliflower and broccoli.
16 JULY 2009
FISHING
The weather was beautiful today. There was no wind and the sky was sparkling blue. Earl and Greg took the boys to sea with the intention of returning before 12. But they enjoyed themselves so much that they stayed out until half past two. Jay caught the biggest fish – a red roman, Earl caught a smaller one and a white stump. Joshua caught two small Hottentots and they all caught sharks and barble.
While they were at sea, I packed up as much as I could, swept the house, went to refuel and went to the supermarket to replenish the snacks.
We left Struisbaai at half past four and took the dirt road to Kleinbaai. Some parts were pocked with potholes, others were slippery after the rains, and I found I really had to concentrate on my driving.
Our house is a double storey with a stunning view of the sea. The boys have to share a room with one double bed and a single mattress. Earl and I have a double room with en suite bathroom, Michael Pulcella and Greg are sharing a room and Gus and Jacky have the other double room upstairs next to ours with a separate entrance to the bathroom. The open plan kitchen/lounge/dining room is also upstairs.
After a delicious supper of steak, chops, sausage, sweet potato and salad the boys, still full of unrestrained energy engaged in a raucous pillow fight. I warned, “Boys, this will end in tears!” and not five minutes later one was crying because another had roughly tangled his head in a pillowslip. I calmed them down, gave them hot chocolate, and encouraged them to settle down for the night. It was after 9 o’clock and it didn’t take long for silence to rein as they drifted off to probably dream of the big one jumping onto their lines.
FRIDAY 17 JULY 2009
FISHING
Mike Pulcella is part of the team that will fish in the competition. Earl can only take six on the boat and so the boys had to decide which two would stay behind today. Jay is in the league so he will get to fish in the competition so he and Leo decided to let the younger two go today.
The beautiful still, clear skies almost fooled us into thinking it would be a warm morning. The chill bit into one’s bones the minute one left the cosiness of the duvet. Earl warmed us up with his now famous scrambled eggs etc and the anglers went off to seek their quota. While I went to Gansbaai to shop, Jay and Leo went off to explore the rock pools, which are right opposite our house. I was gone less than an hour but they did not give up their pursuit of the klipvis until half past one. I popped across to see how they were doing and they proudly showed me their catch safely preserved in a zip-lock bag! They were disappointed when I explained that their pets would have to be released before they came home.
Meanwhile at sea, the anglers saw great white sharks leap out of the sea next to the shark boats. They also observed whales breaching right next to the boat. As if that were not thrill enough, they also had their adrenaline rush when they all caught some impressive red roman and stump. Daniel also caught an octopus.
After cleaning the boat and having something to eat, they went off on their bikes, played cards and went off on their bikes again. My only rule is – no running in the house – but even that is disobeyed!
Jacky and Gus arrived just after 7 o’clock and we had fried fish for supper. The boys got up to high jinks again but soon settled down after a cup of hot chocolate and some stern words from ‘grand dragon’
SATURDAY 18 JULY 2009-07-18
SUCCESS AT SEA
The men and Jay were all up by 6 o’clock. Earl made them breakfast and Jacky kindly packed some sandwiches, fruit, biscuits and juice. The other three boys and I surfaced at 8 o’clock and they settled for coco pops for breakfast. They played with Carla for a while then went off to the rock pools while we went to shop at Kleinbaai. We treated ourselves to coffee and cake at the local coffee shop and had fun chatting to the “camp” owner of the establishment. He is about to give it up to start a seafood restaurant near the harbour.
After giving the boys hot dogs for lunch we went down to the rock pools and watched them and Carla having a great time investigating the marine wildlife. The boys used rocks to build a dam and trap their fish.
In the meantime, the anglers were having a successful day at sea. Jay caught his quota of species and got a junior 3kg line record a red-stump of 4.3kg. Mike set up a new S.A. record on 2kg line with a stump of 4.5kg and the others got some good fish. All this was thanks to Daniel’s sea cat which they used as bait. In competition, the anglers have to catch as many species as they can. Each species has a limit on the number allowed per angler so they have to choose when to release and when to keep. Jay caught a good-sized roman and decided to keep it. Later he caught bigger ones but had to release them.
We went to the club to watch the weigh-in and stayed to have a drink and a sandwich. Earl was super proud of Jay and of his whole team but we won’t know the results for some time.
On the way home I dropped the boys at the pools so they could show Jay their dam. Josh and Daniel returned some time later with the latter in tears. Jay had thrown a rock which hit his ankle. It swelled up and I treated it with ice and voltarin ointment and hoped for the best. He made a miraculous recovery and after another great braai was soon in the thick of a play-fight with Earl and the other boys. They all got their pyjamas twisted into straitjacket but after a great deal of hi-jinks and hilarity and further accusations of this one is hurting that one, I sent them off to bed and it wasn’t long before silence reigned supreme.
SUNDAY 19 JULY 2009
HERMANUS, WHALES, CRAFT MARKET AND FISHING
The anglers ate a cooked breakfast and left later than expected at 8 o’clock this morning. The rest of us were out of bed and breakfasted by half past nine. The boys went down to the rock pools but returned and played cards and entertained Carla for a while. At 11 o’clock, we all piled into the Caravelle and headed to Hermanus where we watched the whales perform for the tourists. It’s as if they know they are being watched. The waterfront at Hermanus is lovely with rolling lawns, pavement cafes and buskers performing African music. We watched breaching whales for a while then went to Fusion for lunch. The boys had the most amazing beef hamburgers topped with onions deep-fried in batter. Jacky and I shared a vegetarian nacho. It was delicious!
After lunch, we went to the street market and the boys spent their pocket money on trinkets for their moms, dads and siblings. Joshua got himself two caps – U.K. and Arsenal. After Daniel had spent money on each member of his large family, he said, “Gee this has cost quite a lot. It must be expensive for my parents to look after all of us!” Yes, indeed, Daniel – glad you appreciate it!
Lines up was at 3 o’clock and we got back just in time to have a cup of tea before going to the weigh in at the boat club. Team Kiora did quite well but did not catch as much as they did yesterday. Jay was disappointed that he’d missed the market and was envious of the African Stick Game that Leo had bought. I told him that privilege was being old enough to fish with men! He told me of his adventure with the whales today. “Granny, this Minky whale circled the boat and then popped up and said woof right next to my ear! I got such a fright!”
After the weigh in Jacky and I took the kids to the rock pools. It was a perfect evening. It never ceases to amaze me how the weather can change from freezing to hot from one day to the next. Today was the first day this week that I wore a t-shirt!
Mike left for Cape Town at about 6 o’clock and Gus and Jacky a little later. Earl and I decided that it would be better to leave early tomorrow morning. I asked Leo and Daniel how they’d feel about another night away from home. Leo said, “No problem, but my mom will probably be upset because she’s missing me.” A few days ago after talking to his mom on the phone Daniel said, “My mom’s voice sounded strange. I think she was trying not to cry. Poor mom, she misses me so much!” So his response was, “I’m fine with another night away but I know my mother will be very upset. She hates to be away from me.” I phoned the moms and Leo’s mom Belinda said she’d rather we left in the morning as it would be safer. Daniel’s mom said, “Daniel is just like his dad. They both think I can’t live without them. Please tell my son I’ll cope.”
“Daniel, mom says she’s happy for you to stay another night.”
“She’s just been brave. As soon as she puts the phone down, she’ll be in tears.”
Dream on my boy!
Greg wrapped a red roman in foil and cooked it on the braai, I warmed up some left over vegetables and made a salad and that was supper.
The boys entertained us with jokes, songs and poems and ended the evening by making a movie with Earl’s cell phone! However, they obeyed without too much of an argument when I insisted on calmness and sent them to bed. I think they have finally worn out!
MONDAY 19 JULY 2009
THE JOURNEY HOME
We got up at 5 o’clock, packed and after a breakfast of coffee/hot chocolate and Ouma rusks were ready to leave by quarter to seven this morning. The men and the boys had to strap the bicycles to the trailer by torch light, as the house has no garage or outside light!
Jay prayed for a safe journey and all went well until we were just 40 km from Kleinbaai. I was travelling behind Earl and Greg and saw the boat swerve. I slowed but did not manage to avoid one of the cement bricks fallen from a truck right in my path. Gadoof, my right wheel hit the brick and I heard a hiss as my tire blew out. Fortunately there was space on the shoulder of the road and I pulled over immediately. Two other cars had met with the same fete before me. I phoned Earl and he had to find a safe place to leave the boat before he could come back to help. Greg stayed with Kiora.
The Caravel has a special implement to unlock the wheel nut before one can change the tires. Murphy ensured that ours did a little disappearing act and Earl thought it might have been left in Durban where we had 4 tyres fitted in December. He raced off to Hermanus to see if he could obtain another one. After a long wait, I decided to tidy the luggage in the boot. I moved one item and said gadget magically reappeared. At that moment, Earl returned with a mechanic who had not been unable to find what we needed and had come with a selection of objects that might do the trick. None of them would have worked so thankfully I found our tool!
This delayed us by two hours but once we were on the road again the trip went smoothly. This time Daniel said a prayer and made sure to ask that no more punctures would occur!
I was impressed to note that they remembered the name of “Sir Lowry’s Pass”.
The boys kept asking whether they would have to go to school. I gave them the choice and there was great debate as to whether or not they would go. The pros were that they would see their friends and get to choose new groups to sit with. The cons – they were tired and unwashed and Dan and Leo didn’t have their uniforms. In the end they compromised – didn’t actually go to school but went to the fence at break and chatted to some of the kids

FRIDAY 24 JULY 2009
RESULTS OF THE COMPETITON
Jay scored 1000 points on Saturday and Sunday in the junior section of the competition and ended up 13th out of the 80 or so contestants. He was 2nd top junior. This is amazing, as he has only fished in two legs out of the five fished.
Earl is lying 10th, Mike Pulcella is 11th, Greg is 19th and Gus 21st. Greg and Gus have only fished two legs of the competition.
Kiora was top boat on Saturday having scored 1000 points and is lying 5th overall after only fishing two legs. The other legs were fished on Greg Morrison’s boat, Devenish.
There is one more leg to be fished. Good luck, guys!

Posted by fenwickh 19:22 Comments (0)

Kruger National Park January 2009 Part 2

Tuesday 13 January 2009
Orpen to Timbovati
We decided to have a late start today and after a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked by Earl after he’d bought a fresh supply from the shop, we left camp at half past eight. It was raining for much of the time and we thought we would not see very much but animals and birds don’t seem to mind the wet weather that much. In fact, I’m sure they love it as it offers some relief from the heat.
We thoroughly enjoyed our morning of birding and the first highlight was seeing Senegal lapwings. It was also interesting observing how the bird postures were different in the wet and we were amused by a black eagle who sat in tree with wings spread out to dry.
We stopped at Timbovati picnic site at about 1 o’clock and had some coffee and rolls. The picnic sites in the park are usually well looked after and have clean loos and boiling water for your tea or coffee. This one was no exception.
We met two young girls, Kerry from Johannesburg and her friend Silke from Germany. They’d worked together in Ireland and now Silke was having an African experience. She wasn’t too interested in the bird life but was desperate to see Lions. “You come to Africa to see a lion,” she argued, “Who’s interested in stupid birds!”
We weren’t far down the road when we were waved down and informed of a pride of lion about 10km further on. We had not intended to ravel all the way along this road but decided to in order to see the cats. Sure enough there they were – Mom, Dad and 3 cubs having a siesta. However, they were a bit more interesting than the lot lying on the tar road yesterday! I felt bitterly disappointed that the girls had taken a different road and we didn’t take their cell phone numbers! After observing the pride for a while we turned round and travelled back to the road we intended taking back to camp. As luck would have it, we saw the girls at the crossroads and waved them down, told them where to find the lions and then exchanged cell numbers. They had about 20km to go to find the pride. We continued on our trip, enjoyed our bird watching, and hoped desperately that they would get to see their lions! That evening I received an S.M.S. “Saw the lions – made our trip! Thanks. Love Kerry and Silke.”
We braaied steaks for supper and put scraps and bottles in the bin after making sure the fridge was badger proof. We wanted to get up to see the badger if he paid us another nocturnal visit but he didn’t!
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
Orpen to Satara
We were all up early and ready to leave by quarter to six this morning. It was cool and raining for most of the morning but got progressively drier as we moved north. Olifants camp is a long way so we planned to stop at Satara for breakfast.
There were herds of impala, wildebeest and zebra right outside the camp and Silke and Kerry had told us that while they’d been staying at Orpen’s satellite camp they’d seen a mother cheetah and two cubs on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. We knew they would be close to the camp gate but after a few kilometres there was no sign of cheetah. Priscilla said, “I’m so disappointed to miss those cheetahs,”
“What are those?” I said and lo and behold, the distant silhouettes I spotted turned into a mother cheetah with a cub that must have been about six months old. For a short while we were the only ones there but soon a few more cars appeared – luckily Orpen is a small camp so the early leavers had missed them and those of us who were a tad later got to see them beautifully. We watched them for about 20 minutes. The mother was clearly introducing her son to hunting and he boldly confronted a wildebeest who just appeared annoyed and butted him away. He then decided that Mom was fair game and pounced onto her back only to be shaken off with an annoyed look. Eventually after they’d crossed the road back and forth, a few times, they went behind the bushes and we decided to move on as we had a long trip ahead of us. We saw Kerry and Silke at the scene and then again at Satara and they told us that they’d spent two hours with the cheetahs. Clearly, they find cats more fascinating than birds. We, however, stopped to look at many interesting birds and of course some mammals too.
Although the scrub hare is a nocturnal creature, the overcast weather makes him bold and at around 7 o’clock we saw one silently grazing at the side of the road. He was amazingly confiding and did not scamper off into the bush when we stopped to take photographs.
At 7:40, we turned onto the tar road H7 and not far along saw, a camper van stopped ahead of us. They pointed into the bush and we observed a clump of lion dozing behind some bushes, which camouflaged them very well. We might have missed them had we not been pre-warned. It was fun seeing them interact with each other but they were in doze mode so we didn’t pay them a long visit.
We saw a fair amount of game including elephants, waterbuck, kudu, herds of giraffe, kudu, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest and of course lots of birds too. There were a number of raptors sitting on top of trees the highlight of which was an African Harrier Hawk. The mammal highlight of the day were two little jackal cubs who we thought should have been with Mother but were out playing on their own. After a while, they scampered off, probably to where she had breakfast waiting for them.
We had our breakfast at Satara and our waiter greeted us cheerfully – “You are bird watchers. After breakfast I show you a scops owl in a Marula tree!’ And true to his word he took us some distance from the restaurant near the eco information centre and showed us exactly where a Scops was having his daytime sleep. He was more interesting that the one at Afsaal as he had his little tufts up and seemed to be not quite as fat!
There had been quite a bit of rain and there were puddles everywhere but who would expect to see a turtle in one of them? As we left the Satara car park Earl just managed to avoid riding over the tiniest one I’ve ever seen and Pris got out to rescue him but he swam too fast for her so we decided to let nature take its course. He’d survived thus far perhaps he’d find a bigger pond soon enough!
The rest of our trip to Olifants was lovely. We drove quickly along sections that were dry and supported little game but in the greener parts along the river there were herds of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, impala and kudu. The bird-life was interesting and we saw large flocks of white stork, marabou storks, wattled starlings and carmine bee-eaters. The different raptors we saw included Eurasian hobby, black-breasted snake eagle, Walberg’s eagle and tawny eagle and of course there were lots of vultures around.
Crossing the bridge over the Olifants, we saw African pied wagtails and a pied kingfisher at the edge of the wall.
Our accommodation is in hut 10 and 11 with the most magnificent view of the River. We observed hippo on the banks and Earl called our attention to a ground hornbill in a tree. All we could see was its wing hanging out of the foliage but it was unmistakable. A little later, he flew out and settled in another tree on the opposite bank.
We did not go out for an afternoon drive but Earl, Heather and Priscilla went for a walk while I caught up on my diary and spotting lists.
Thursday 15 January 2009
Olifants River Walk
We packed up, had breakfast at the restaurant where we saw hippos having a confrontation and then went on a river walk with our guides Pilot and Bridgeman. They took us to the starting point in an open land rover and we spotted a few interesting animals on route. Heather desperately wanted to see the Pel’s Fishing Owl and it was to a place it is often seen that we were headed. Earl spotted it in the tree and I got to see it fleetingly fly out but it took cover in the thick foliage and would not come out again – so Heather will have to wait for another opportunity to get this elusive bird!
Olifants Camp to Letaba
We decided to take a leisurely drive to Letaba as we only had a short way to drive to Satara today. In 2006 as we crossed a ford a group of turtles came rushing out of the water to greet us looking like aliens demanding to be taken to our leader and this time at the same spot the same thing happened. Only this time there was a baby crocodile with them. The croc was ever so tolerant of the turtles clambering over his back and seemed unfazed by people too. We believe that people have been feeding these creatures and that is why they mass out of the water to beg for titbits.
At Letaba, we looked for the pearl-spotted owls but they don’t seem to be there anymore. The bushbucks were grazing in the camp but the redheaded weavers were conspicuous by their absence. The one interesting creature we observed was a leguaan. He was digging in the leaf litter and relishing some delicacy – possibly a beetle of some sort.
We also saw paradise flycatchers in the trees – impossible to photograph! We bought ice creams and then headed for Satara.
On a bridge en route home, we stopped to observe peregrine falcons fighting with yellow-billed kites. It was quite exciting. We are not sure what the conflict was about.
Soldier Ants are fascinating creatures – they march like a regiment and nothing seems to stop their set path. Today we observed a line of them crossing the road and as it was a small regiment, we could see where the line began and where it ended. Yes – even ants are fascinating and worth stopping for.
Interesting birds we saw today were wattled starling – hundreds of them – southern black tits and arrow-marked babblers. Little swifts, white-rumped swifts and Horus swifts were flying under the bridge and out again. At our camp at Satara, Little Swifts were nesting in deserted swallow nests under the eaves of all the units.
Just before we entered Satara, we observed a spotted hyena slinking along away from us. He then changed direction and headed toward the camp fence. There was a herd of impala grazing nearby and they did not like his intrusion. When he got too close they scarpered and pronked off to a safer distance.
In the night I heard hyenas calling – probably his pack.
We settled into A13 and A14 at Satara, enjoyed a lovely braai and then went to bed early.
Friday 16th January 2009
Satara to Skukuza
We left Satara and 20 past six and made our way to Skukuza. We followed a route that took us to Orpen Dam and on the way; we saw buffalo, waterbuck, kudu, giraffe and many interesting birds including large flocks of white storks, which are more plentiful than I’ve ever observed in Kruger before.
Today we saw Ground Hornbill on two separate occasions but quite soon after each other. The first observation at 9:20 a.m. on the H1-2, about 45 km from Skukuza we saw two adults with juvenile. They were quite a way from the road and the long grass prevented us from taking good photographs but we saw them beautifully. Then at 9:50, 19km from Skukuza we saw another ground hornbill very close to the road and got lovely photographs.
Other animals that we saw before arriving at Skukuza were elephants, giraffe, baboons, monkeys, buffalo and warthog.
We were supposed to have stayed at Skukuza last night and it had been four days since Pretoriuskop promised to send on my left luggage so I did not expect to have a problem collecting it at 10:30 this morning. However, when I went to reception they told me that it had only just left Pretoriuskop and it would be an hour before it arrived. I was bit angry about this but we needed to have breakfast so went to the restaurant and had toasted sandwiches and then went for a walk along the river’s edge. When we got back, my luggage had arrived safely!
We left Skukuza at 12 midday and the temperature was 33 degrees C – hot but not as bad as the first few days that we were in the park. At 13:30 we saw ground hornbills again. Earl saw that a fellow tourist had a GPS and told me to ask him for the co-ordinates as the park rangers want sightings of Ground Hornbill to be reported. There were four adults with a juvenile on the H3, 13 km from the turnoff to Skukuza – co-ordinates S25:12.082 E31:34.274
Our highlight bird of the day was a dark capped yellow warbler at 14h55. We saw it clearly but it flew off before we could get photographs.
We arrived at Berg and Dal at 15: 30. We checked into our family cottage number 19 and then went for a sunset drive with Lourens Botha.
Berg and Dal – Sunset Drive
We arrived for the sunset drive and were greeted by a cheerful man in his sixties who presented us with a shopping list – add to it what you’d like to see – he said with a twinkle. Interestingly enough nobody put down lion or leopard but we had some way out wishes – pangolin, nightjars, honey badger, owls etc.
Our young guide, Lourens, was fantastic. He clearly loved his job and made the drive interesting and fun. He gave titbits of information all the time and we learned that you only need worry when an elephant stops flapping his ears and stares at you and that when he is stressed he will become wet on the side of his face where he has a sweat gland. He stopped the van next to a tree and showed us where a hornbill nest was. We observed it for a while and saw how the female, holed up inside, pushed out a wing of an insect and other scraps she needed to discard. We hoped the male would appear but after 10 minutes, he did not so we moved on. The daytime animals and birds that we saw were giraffe, zebra, rhino, elephant, violet-backed starlings, dung beetle, hamerkop, malachite kingfisher, green-backed heron and black crake. The latter we saw when Priscilla looked down from the top of the new bridge to see the old bridge and there on said bridge walked a little black crake!
When it became dark, we saw scrub hare, water thick-knees, spotted thick-knees and spotted eagle owls on the road. The owls were fascinating and we observed them catching insects. We also saw a Eurasian nightjar but it had been knocked by a car and had an injured wing. Lourens picked it up and showed us its colours and its wide gape. He was clearly upset that a careless motorist had been too unobservant to watch out for nightlife on the roads. It would have been a staff car.
The sunset drive was a lovely end to our holiday in the Kruger National Park.

Posted by fenwickh 08:43 Comments (0)

Kruger National Park January 2009

Part 1

Tuesday, 06 January, 2009
Off to Durban
I was touched this morning to see how Jay and Joshua hugged Shannon when we said goodbye at 5 o’clock this morning. It’s been a wonderful three weeks, which we’ve all enjoyed for different reasons. The boys loved the horse-riding, biking, golf, fishing, playing with their cousins and having Allan with whom to fool around and rough and tumble. Lisa enjoyed special time with her sister and cousins and to horse ride every day was bliss. For Earl and me it’s always a wonderful to be privileged enough to be entertained by our children, having time with our other grandchildren and enjoying the company of our Kokstad Relatives. We had a fabulous time with everybody.
The trip to Durban airport was smooth with only a little mist in certain sections. We arrived at Durban International at half past seven, checked Lisa and the boys’ luggage through then took them to the Spur for breakfast. Earl spotted the Mango flight coming in 15 minutes early and we watched Heather and Priscilla de-plane – they were first off having got seats right in front of the aircraft.
Fortunately, we had the address of the depot where we needed to collect the tyres on Earl’s GPS otherwise; we might have taken forever to find the place. By 9 o’clock, they were fitted and we were on our way to Bonamanzi!
It was hot! We settled into Tree House 12, had lunch then slept for the rest of the afternoon! At 5 o’clock, Earl woke us up and dragged us kicking and screaming to a secluded little pool where we were the only ones beside the monkeys. After a refreshing swim, we went off to the restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful buffet supper.
Wednesday, 07 January 2009
Bonamanzi
Before leaving, we watched the weavers making nests at the waterhole. The highlight for me was a thick-billed weaver feeding its two babies. The species of weaver included, Southern-masked weaver, Village weaver, yellow weaver, spectacled weaver and thick-billed weaver. We also took a walk and observed some birds including wattle lapwing, water thick-knee, spur-winged goose and little bee-eater.

Once again, it was hot today and temperatures were in the 40s. Although Earl gets antsy at place of bureaucracy our border crossings went smoothly and the trip through Swaziland was lovely. Because we drove through game reserves, we spotted quite a bit of wildlife on the way. We were impressed with the neatness of apparent successful farming of sugar cane in the area. It looks like Swaziland is doing well.
Kruger National Park
Whenever I go to The Kruger National Park, my whole being is recharged, my senses are keener and I glow with happiness as I embrace another world, an Eden, Paradise in Africa. As we entered Crocodile Bridge Gate at 12:30 this afternoon, I went straight into ‘wild’ mode and drank in the sounds, sights and smells of my favourite place in the universe!
As expected those beautiful, gentle antelope the impala were among the first animals to greet us and not long after a small herd of wildebeest.
Within the first 10 minutes of entering the park, vultures flying overhead alerted us to the possibility of a kill and sure enough more gathered in a nearby tree and a traffic jam of cars marked the spot where a lioness was guarding her giraffe carcass. She was restless and a short distance up the road we saw two game guards dismounting from their bicycles. The lioness withdrew to the shade of a tree as they tentatively approached on foot. Lions seldom attack people on foot but if they’re on bicycles might charge so the game guards had a better chance off their vehicles.
We didn’t stay at the kill long as it was crowded with other observers and we felt we’d seen enough. The vultures and marabou storks that were hovering were interesting to see too.
I took us 2 hours to travel the 27km to our first camp Biyamati, which is a bush camp and its approaching road may only be used by residents; thus, it is quiet and other cars are seldom seen.
On a safari like this, it’s good to have everybody keenly looking out for birds and game. On this trip we had Heather who we include on our holidays not for her charm and personality but for her excellent skills of bird identification. Just joking we really love you, Heather!
We have been to a few bird club camps and outings with Priscilla and her spotting skills are hard to beat –hence Heather’s nickname for her – Unbeaten Beeton! Important to have this skill on Safari so – Welcome to Caravelle Safaris Priscilla – keep up the unbeaten record!
Earl, my darling husband, we could not do without as he does all the driving while spotting birds in spite of their efforts to camouflage themselves where nobody else would find them, manoeuvres the car for award winning photography and shops, cooks and cleans too! Then there’s me whose job is simply to organise the event and write about it afterwards! It’s hard work having fun!

Today two birds of prey caused great excitement among us. First, a brown snake eagle, its yellow eyes and yellow legs – un-feathered, makes it not a true eagle in spite of its name. We continued to see this bird quite often during the rest of the trip. Then there was the king of prey birds – the martial eagle, which we found beautifully perched in a tree. It was still a juvenile but glorious none the less and we all got fabulous photographs of him.
Iconic in the park are the woodland’s kingfisher and lilac breasted roller – both beautiful birds which we never tire of seeing. The woodland’s call fills the air, summoning one to find him and giving one great pleasure when one does. The lilac-breasted roller is a show-off and poses conspicuously on branches close enough for wonderful photographs. There is no excuse for not capturing this bird digitally forever.
A bird that caught our attention early in the trip was the white-winged widow bird. In Kokstad, we see long-tailed, red collared and fan-tailed widow birds so it was wonderful to become familiar with another of this sub-species.
We arrived at Biyamati at and checked into cottage 13 at half past three, unpacked and had a rest. The yellow-billed and red-billed hornbills are quite tame, They have discovered that they can peck insects off the windowpanes.. This is cute but annoying if you want some peace and quiet! Other birds we saw in the camp garden were cinnamon-breasted bunting, grey-headed sparrow and go away birds
It was very hot so we rested for the rest of the afternoon and had supper at about 7 o’clock.
Thursday, 08 January 2009
Early Morning Start
Everybody else in camp left earlier than we did so we had the road to ourselves. The first exciting sighting was when Heather spotted Small Buttonquail scurrying along the edge of the road and into the long grass. It was a real privilege to see these birds as they are shy and run for cover as soon as they feel threatened. Some birds are camouflage experts and I was almost fooled by one doing an impersonation of a stick. As we crossed the ford where it was lurking I yelled, “stop’, and made Earl reverse. The stick turned out to be a beautiful Little Bittern.
Another of the highlights of the day was seeing elephants with babies rolling and spraying each other in a mud puddle. One of the youngsters was very cheeky and mock charged us. One of the big bulls also looked quite aggressive and waved his trunk at us.
We really enjoyed observing the antics of the birds and laughed when we saw a starling chase a poor little mongoose running down the road. He was probably quite innocent but he has a reputation for stealing birds’ eggs.
Priscilla wanted to see a carmine bee-eater and Earl managed to find one for her. We also saw Jacobin cuckoo twice, a Walberg’s Eagle on its nest feeding its baby, a bateleur flying overhead and many other stunning birds.
We stopped at Afsaal, a rather commercialised picnic site for lunch and Priscilla showed us where they have a resident Scops Owl in a cordoned off tree. After lunch, we made our hot way back to camp but stopped frequently to see birds and animals.
We arrived home at 3 o’clock. It was very hot and Biyamati does not have air-con so we switched on the fans and collapsed on our beds to rest, and gather our thoughts.
Friday, 09 January 2009
Biyamati to Berg en Dal
We were up very early and ready to leave camp by 5 o’clock. The first exciting spot of the morning was a martial eagle. However, this was topped by the cute little harlequin buttonquail we spotted running along the side of the road. These birds are difficult to spot as they disappear into the grass so quickly but we got good views of them and were able to take some reasonable photographs.
In an open clearing near a water hole, I spotted something in the grass, which I thought might be a korhaan, but turned out to be an African Wattled Lapwing. Nearby were some smaller wattled birds and I said, “Hey it’s got babies.” Much to my embarrassment Earl pointed out that the babies were actually wattled starlings! In the same area, we watched lesser-striped swallows, red-breasted swallows, lilac breasted rollers and European bee-eaters. We had quite a feast of birds all at once.
Not long after this, we saw other interesting birds including a striped cuckoo, black-crowned tchagra, long-billed crombec, brown snake eagle and Sabota lark
The bird and animal abundance died down as the day grew warmer but we did see squirrels, tortoises, steenbok, kudu, elephants and impala from time to time.
We arrived at Berg en Dal at about 11 o’clock, which was too early to check into our accommodation so we ordered toasted sandwiches, and ate them in the air-conditioned dining room. It was closed but the manager allowed us to sit there as long as we didn’t mind the maintenance man fixing the air-con. After lunch, we took a walk along the perimeter and saw dabchick, reed cormorant, a pied kingfisher trying his luck, a white-faced duck looking for a place to land and an African Jacana. Earl and I walked off on our own and heard parrots in a tree – we saw one fly out but it wasn’t a good sighting. We also saw a yellow-billed kite perched happily in the shade of another tree.
Family Cottage 82 is cool but rather dark, with low ceilings, nowhere to hang your towel and probably designed by a clever architect trying to win an aesthetic design prize. We had an afternoon nap then went out again at 4o’clock. We saw elephants, rhino, purple indigo bird and black fly-catcher. On our way home we stopped to look for owls in a tree that I thought would definitely have on but instead we saw a green pigeon!
As it was too hot to sit outside and braai this evening, we cooked a rather delicious chicken casserole in the electric frying pan!
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Berg en Dal to Afsaal
We left Berg ‘n Dal at 5:45 this morning. The first thing we spotted was a marabou stork at the top of a tree. Another highlight was seeing a spotted hyena that seemed a bit disoriented and was crossing from one side of the road to the other. He disappeared into the bush and we thought he’d happily re-join his mates. We continued to the water hole then returned along the same road and there he was again doing the same criss-crossing of the road before going off into the bush again.
Interesting birds this morning were a group of double-banded sand grouse with their beautiful yellow eyes. We also saw a Burchell’s Coucal at the top of a tree, which was rather a strange place to see him.
We had a lovely experience when we stopped on a bridge and scanned the river for life. We spotted two small turtles in the water and were about to move on when a big brown bird flew straight at us, It was a hamerkop and he landed right next to the car and began to look for something to eat. We got stunning views of him and another flew over too. When he flew off a little three-banded plover dropped down and then we moved on. A few meters down the road and I spotted a paradise whydah but he flew off before we could get photographs.
Before we arrived at Afsaal, we saw a few elephants but no other big game.
At Afsaal, we had toasted sandwiches for breakfast, Priscilla charged her camera batteries at the shop and I downloaded my photographs onto the computer in case I ran out of space. The rest of our trip was uneventful. Two young men waved us down. They were clearly inebriated and having lots of fun and they asked “16 November – is that anybody’s birthday.” “My daughter’s,” I replied. “I knew it he yelled and slapped his pal on the back. I just had this feeling it was somebody’s birth date!
“Have you seen a bugger-all? Well you’ll see another one along this road,” and they roared with laughter at their own joke. Then they said, “We’ve see a Lion, a Black Label, a Windhoek and that’s about it!
They were from Milnerton!
All we saw after that was black saw-wing swallows, zebra, wildebeest, impala elephants and waterbuck!
We arrived at Pretoriuskop at 12 and checked into our two bungalows – Heather and Priscilla are in number 7, Earl, and I in 118. Earl and I had to pay another R120 because we were upgraded to new bungalows, which had not been built at the time of booking. I think we should have been given them at the old price – after all that’s what we’d booked!
It was a relief when a thunderstorm broke this evening as everything cooled down but it put our braai fire out and we had to cook our meal on the brand new stove – which had a non-functioning hotplate. The newly equipped cupboards were also short of a dinner plate!
Sunday 11 January 2009
Pretoriuskop to Skukuza
We left Pretoriuskop at 06h00 and drove the whole day until 17h00 with a stop at Afsaal for breakfast at half past eleven. The weather was cooler with quite a bit of cloud cover and some rain.
Earl needed to deflate the tyres and as we drove to the petrol station, I spotted a woodpecker on the ground. Heather, Priscilla and I got out of the car to photograph it and got some lovely shots of the Bennet’s on the lawns and the Cardinal in the tree.
This was a good start to the day. The next exciting spot was when Priscilla saw a pearl-spotted owlet in the fork of a tree. It was close and we enjoyed watching and photographing it. Owls camouflage so well that it’s always a thrill to be able to see one.
We have been lucky spotting birds of prey and today we saw Brown Snake Eagle, Eurasian Hobby African Harrier-hawk and Lizard Buzzard.
Other thrilling bird sightings were pygmy kingfisher, common scimitar-bill and ground-scraper thrush.
While we were travelling along a dirt road toward Skukuza Lisa phoned to tell me that Pretoriuskop had found one of my bags – the one with my video camera and hairdryer in it! Thank goodness it wasn’t stolen. I responded by calling them and they promised to send it on to Skukuza.
Several cars stopped to tell us that the road was blocked by a fallen tree but we continued as we were seeing lovely birdlife. When we got to the tree, we called Skukuza to inform them
Just before 14h00 we turned onto S4. We were travelling quite quickly to make up time lost on the blocked road and there had been no exciting spotting for quite some time. At times like this it can become quite boring in the car and one can lose concentration. Priscilla had fallen asleep, Earl was concentrating on his driving and it was left to Heather and me to spot! I was praying for some excitement when suddenly there she was – a leopard in a tree! I yelled – Stop – Leopard. Earl screeched to a halt and shouted – where, where? I already had my binos trained on the animal, Heather saw it immediately and said, Right here in this tree., Priscilla had a rude awakening from her doze and we all just stared at the beautiful creature. She was looking into the bush – scanning for prey, we presumed, and then as quick as a flash she slid down and slunk off into the bush. We could see some impala a distance away and guessed she would circle them and approach downwind. Had we come two minutes later we would have missed her. It was so interesting to see her in the most unlikely tree but she was using it to scan the area not to devour her kill. We continued on our way, basking in the afterglow of a wonderful experience.
At Skukuza, we were assigned Family Cottage 223, which was comfortable but the air-conditioners were very noisy!
The kitchen was well equipped and while Priscilla and Heather went to use the inadequate launderette, I cooked a casserole for supper.
Monday, 12 January 2009
Skukuza to Orpen
The past few days have been rainy or overcast giving us cooler conditions but making photography difficult in some cases. We still have not needed to put on jerseys!
We left Skukuza just after 6 o’clock. We were enjoying our bird watching having seen pied wagtail, boubou, marabou storks and blacksmith lapwings, when a car waved us down to tell us to look out for lions on the road. We were amused to find that this is literally, where they were – a pride of five, lazily lying in the middle of the tar fast asleep at half past six in the morning. They did not flick a tail or bat an eyelid, clearly exhausted after a night of hunting.
Bored with watching inactive lions lying around, we continued our excursion. A grey duiker was one of our interesting observations in the next couple of hours before we came across another group of lazy lions also thinking the tar road made a comfortable bed! Earl tried to wake one up by splashing his juice on her but she didn’t even lift her head!
Our most exciting event was when Heather called out – Stop - Sable antelope – Earl reversed quickly and we all managed to get a good look at this magnificent creature before he disappeared into the bush.
Waterholes, dams and rivers are often interesting places to park off and this morning next to the Skukuza river we saw a knob-billed duck in a tree, a yellow-crowned bishop – a lifer for us all – and a bird half hidden in a tree which Priscilla drew our attention to. After careful observation when it showed a bit more of itself, we were delighted to discover that it was a dwarf bittern.
One of the birds that I most look forward to seeing in Kruger is the endangered beautiful black and white Saddle-Billed Stork. with their enormous slightly upturned black and red bills made beautiful by their yellow saddles. The males have black eyes and the females’ are yellow. We spotted these lovely birds just outside Nhlanguleni Picnic Site where we stopped for breakfast and got some lovely photographs of them.
We had a good day of game viewing today and saw elephants with babies, herds of buffalo – though some has snotty noses, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, and kudu. We also spotted interesting little mongooses and steenbok from time to time. The birdlife was good too and interesting birds we saw were lesser grey shrike, melba finch, coqui francolin, purple roller, carmine bee-eaters, green pigeons, double banded sand grouse, red-crested korhaan and cardinal woodpecker. A bird that has us completely confused is the red-billed buffalo weaver. We have seen birds that fit the description but all except the bill, which to us appears to be white! We assume that the white-billed ones must be juveniles.
We checked into Orpen at around about 5 o’clock and were delighted with our accommodation – family cottage number 14. It had a lovely outdoor kitchen. Orpen is a small camp with only 15 cottages and the best pool in the park. We spent some time cooling off in the pool as the clouds had cleared and it was quite hot in the afternoon. We braaied chicken wings as a starter and had chops and sausage for our main course with sweet potatoes and salad.
We thought we’d animal proofed our fridge but during the night a honey badger managed to push it into a position where he could open it and stole eggs and bacon from the fridge. He also over-turned the bin and nibbled the chicken bones. I heard the noise but when I shone my torch I could only see the bin and didn’t realise he’d raided the fridge until the next morning.

Posted by fenwickh 22:51 Archived in South Africa Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

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