Brown's in Kruger August 2009 *

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Bushcraft
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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:12 pm

August 26 Skukuza

This was our last day at Skukuza and by now we were ready for a change of camp. We also booked the Selati restaurant as a treat for supper, but after supper nobody was sure about the treat part, but I will save that for the complaints forum.

Morning Drive: H4-1/H12/H1-2/ Tshokwane and back

The morning sunrise in Kruger is always a special time of the day for me, but probably not the rest of the family, as I refuse to drive in Kruger with my window closed and it can be a little fresh in the mornings in August. Looking around the car this morning one would think that we were in the North Pole not Kruger.

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A few km further on the H4-1 a large elephant herd started crossing the river , so we decided to wait and see if they would come up to the H4-1, which they started to do a few minutes later. As luck would have it, much to Chantal’s horror, they decided to cross the road right in front of us, as you can see in the photo below taken by my brother.

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The next stop was Leeupan on the way to Tshokwane. A beautiful place to just sit and watch the surroundings, but for those of us with kids that means about 10 minutes maximum.

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Tshokwane, although always busy, is one of my favourite stops for a late breakfast. The food is always good, especially the boerewors rolls. The 2 young ones decided, much to my horror and embarrassment, that the large number of birds would be great fun to play with. A few dirty looks and harsh words stopped the game before it got out of hand. We left Tshokwane at about 10 after a good breakfast and took a slow drive back down to the H12 bridge, where we normally see hippos relaxing at this time of the day.

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Then, about 1km along the H4-1 on the way to Skukuza there was a movement in the bush that caught someone’s eye in Garth’s car. Brakes and there he was, just casually taking a mid day stroll.

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We followed him for about 10 minutes and then suddenly he decided to leave the bush and come and pose for a few photos. By now a fairly large crowd had developed and it didn’t seem to bother him at all.

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We only got back to camp after 12, so the kids were tired, therefore the afternoon drive was only going to be a short one.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:14 pm

Afternoon Drive: Marula Loop and back

A short afternoon drive didn’t produce much except for a troop of baboons, with this little fellow that was worth a laugh.

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Kruger sunsets are always worth stopping for.

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Just outside Skukuza, this scallywag made an appearance.

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Off to the Selati restaurant for supper.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:18 pm

August 27 Skukuza to Biyamiti

I was sad in a way to be leaving Skukuza, but bush camps are where it’s at for me. I have stayed at Biyamiti for 1 night before, but it was the first visit for Garth and Mel. This type of camp can be a bit of a mission with small kids, especially since I’m fairly neurotic about my kids irritating the neighbours who have paid money for the quiet bush experience, so hopefully they behave.

Morning Drive: H1-1/H3/S113/S23/S139

The H1-1 and H3 were very quiet except for the odd impala and this rhino

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After a quick stop at Afsaal for a takeaway breakfast and a look at the Scops owl, it was off to Biyamiti. The S23 along the Biyamiti river bed is a beautiful drive, but not much happening on it today (probably because it was close to midday by now), except a Kudu hiding in one of the rocky outcrops and a lone crocodile at the weir.

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Up came the S139, the private road for guests. A quick stop to photograph the no-entry sign and off we went. This road looks like perfect leopard territory, but they could be hard to find, because the bush is very thick along the road even at this time of the year. A few km before Biyamiti I saw a dirt road turn off to the left. It looked like a very short dead end with a turning circle at the end, so I said to Garth on the 2 walkie talkie that because he had the trailer I would go and check it out and he should carry on. I completed the turning circle and was on my way out when my nine year old Meegan said “Dad where are you going, what about the lions” and I said “where?” and she said “there looking at you”. I was halfway through “Now’s not the time to play games” and I saw them.

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I was in panic mode now, because Garth had driven past the turning with the trailer and I was battling to get through on the walkie talkie. I eventually got hold of them and they joined us at the sighting. (Still not sure how they turned around on that small little road)

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These lions looked very restless after they saw us and I got the feeling that they definitely don’t see as many people as maybe the lions elsewhere. I kept looking around for 1 of the males to arrive out of the bush next to us. After 20 minutes we decided to leave them in peace and moved off to the camp.

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We were early for the 12 book in, so we stopped at the Biyamiti view point. A beautiful place, but I think it could get a little hairy in the early morning or late afternoon.

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The camp book in went smoothly, we had the units without a view, but special anyway. The camp manager, when asked by Garth “What’s been happening” he said “Lots of rhino around, etc, but no lions in about a week” Garth said that he should try 5km up the road, I don’t think that he believed us.

I have to post a picture of our pre fire castle that we make in the designated braai each day to save time in the evenings.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:21 pm

Afternoon Drive: To the Biyamiti Weir and back.

We had a late lunch and all went on a tour of the perimeter fence and the hide. A few frights along the way as the resident bushbuck jumped out of a bush. Bush camps tend to let the imagination run wild and you almost feel as if you are doing a bush walk. This Saddle-billed Stork was cruising along the dry river bed.

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We left the camp just before 4 for a short drive to the weir, stopping at the sausage tree road on the way where the lions were earlier, but they had moved off. Our first sightings were only a few km before the weir and at the weir, an eagle (not sure of the model), a vulture nesting and a monitor lizard on the weir.

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After a few minutes relaxing at the weir, the Garmin showed that we better head back to camp, or risk being late. A few more sightings on the way back to camp, a steenbok, waterbuck herd, an owl and buffalo in the river bed.

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Just before camp, much to Chantal’s horror, a large elephant herd crossing the road. I was getting many instructions from the passenger seat “move, go, stop, move again”. Fortunately Garth could get a photo.

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Garth and I started the fire and opened the beers, when a roar came from the river bed. A panic to find the torches and then down to the fence to see what was happening. Just in the torch light was a male lion, a few seconds later he was gone, but probably still there, just out of torch light. Frustration followed as the torches were not doing the job. We stayed on the perimeter long enough to see 2 rhino come past and then back to the braai.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:28 pm

August 28 Biyamiti

This was another one of those days that I will never forget for the adrenalin and laughs.

Morning Drive: S139/S25/S28/H4-1(2km up)/H4-2/H5/S102/S26 and back

It was an early quiet start to a cool morning until 6:30 on the S25 when the resident hyena clan made an appearance. I think that there were 4 initially.

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The one large female hyena took a particular interest in Garth and Mel’s youngest and stood and stared intently at her for a few minutes. I think that miss hyena wanted to use her as a toothpick. (Her stomach was already full, so she wasn’t hungry).

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About 500m down the road a small member of the clan made a nervous appearance and took off across the road when she saw us. The kids thought that this was hilarious.

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The drive up to Lower Sabie on the S28 was a little disappointing, all the usual suspects, but no rhino or cheetah which usually frequent the area. We did have this giraffe close to the road.

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Our usual pit stop at Lower Sabie came quicker than expected, but although early we still had the ritual plate of hot chips and a walk on the deck.
Mel had decided to do some shopping and came back with, much to the kids delight, a varnished elephant dung ashtray.

On the way out we all decided to go and scrutinize the sighting board with the hope of finding a direction to take next. After 5 minutes of looking at the board we were still undecided, but Chantal was standing off to one side listening intently (eaves dropping) to 2 people talking in Afrikaans. She then came hastily across to us and said “That man saw a jagluipaard walking along the side of the road 2km up the H4-1”.

Now my Afrikaans is not the best, but I thought “wow a hunting leopard”. Luckily I never said it, because I had no idea that we were actually looking for a cheetah.


We packed the kids in the car and headed up the H4-1 to find the hunting leopard. There were 4 cars parked on the side of the road approximately 2km up from Lower Sabie and below is a picture of what waited there for us.

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The cheetah had killed an impala 3 meters from the side of the road. If we were a few minutes earlier we may have seen the kill take place, but we were still early enough to get a good position to watch her, as a massive traffic jam was about to start.

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You can see in the last photo above that she is starting to look up in the trees as the vultures were starting to arrive and make her nervous. It’s amazing how quickly they pick up on a kill.

After 10 minutes the car opposite me moved out and a Nissan double cab moved in. It was Martie (365 days in KNP). My wife and I were reading the blog everyday and in our mind she had already reached celebrity status, so when Martie started making hand signals at us I just waved dumbly back. Her hand signals become more intense and at one point I thought that she was about to “flip us the bird”. Then I realized what she wanted. In the excitement I had forgotten to turn my car off and because it’s diesel it was making a noise and ruining the sighting. I quickly switched off and apologized.

We sat and watched the cheetah eat for about another 20 minutes until she became too nervous and moved off into the bush (the crowd of vehicles and vultures had increased). The vultures were on the carcass in seconds.

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The crowd moved enough to allow us to pull up next to Martie. We spoke for a few minutes and she said that this sighting had made her day and she was going back to Skukuza for a beer. Chantal was very proud to get a mention later in her blog.
It took about 15 minutes for the traffic to clear enough to allow us out and we went back to Lower Sabie so the kids could use the loo.
A couple of km down the H4-2 on the way to the H5, another traffic jam, a leopard had just crossed the road. We were there a few minutes when Garth shouted on the walkie talkie “There crossing the river bed”. She was so fast that he had no time for a photo. We waited 10 minutes and continued to the H5.
Garth did however manage to get this photo of a Bateleur in flight while we were waiting.

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At the Gomondwane bore hole, just before the H5 turn off, 2 rhino were having a drink and a few warthogs were digging in the sand.

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None of us had ever been to Mpondo dam so we decided to go via the dam on the way back to Biyamiti. The drive was longer than expected and very corrugated in places, so by the time we got to the dam everyone needed kidney belts and the loo again, so a very short stay at the dam and back to camp. Mpondo dam is much bigger than I expected and would be an awesome spot for a small picnic site (and toilets).

Halfway way back to camp we found this guy lying in the bush. I initially thought that the elephant was dead, but then the tail and a foot moved and all seemed well. I had no idea that some elephants rest this way.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:30 pm

Early Afternoon: In Camp

I think that Biyamiti is a beautiful camp and always worth a perimeter explore. It’s amazing how quiet it can be in the middle of the day and how many things one can see by just relaxing on a chair and watching the surroundings.

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Later, Garth, the kids and I went on our usual walk around the camp and found the resident bushbuck below one of the units and 2 fish eagles waiting in a tree next to the river bed. I was amazed that they were still here as there were just a few small pools of water left in the river bed. There must have been some small fish in the pools, because every now and then a kingfisher would dive onto the water.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:38 pm

Late Afternoon Drive: To the Biyamiti Weir and back.

The afternoon started slowly again, the bush on some parts of the S139 is so thick that an animal would need to be almost on top of you before you see it. There seem to be so many elephants in this area at this time of the year, but it can be a little hairy on this narrow road when they are on it or next to it, because if they show an interest in you there’s very little space to move and around the next corner these guys showed up.

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They were a few meters off the road and after some photos Garth decided to continue to the weir and as he passed them the one trumpeted and flapped its ears. Chantal happened to see this and now I had a drama in my car. She closed her eyes and said “when it looks the other way sneak past”.
I thought that I had timed it perfectly, but I’m sure that they could smell the fear in the passenger seat, because as we came up next to them the 1 charged. Well I made it from 1st to 3rd fairly quickly. The elephants in the area, just like the lions from the day before, seemed more nervous than ones that we have seen in the more densely populated sections of the park, but maybe I was just imagining it.
I would hate to imagine what the weir crossing below would look like in the rainy season.

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A kingfisher was waiting on the weir for a photo.

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Halfway back to camp we find this fellow flying from tree to tree. I personally have never seen an owl this small; it was only slightly larger than 2 boxes of cigarettes. I think that it’s a Pearl-spotted Owlet.

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Just as we turned the corner there were a few mongoose in the road, which gave the kids some amusement.

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We found a mother and baby rhino and a much larger owl a few km from camp. It was getting dark now, so very difficult to take photos.

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We stopped quickly at the view point (the kids stayed in the car as we were all a little nervous with no one else around) and then back to braai.
The small ones went to sleep at about 8pm and we put some more wood on the fire to relax and enjoy the evening. Suddenly a strange noise came from the river bed, so the same torch panic as the night before started and off we went to the river bed.
Walking down the middle of the river bed was a large leopard. Garth ran back to the units to give others a chance to come and see (we couldn’t leave the kids alone). The relay event took place until the leopard was out of sight. There were a few wipe outs in the dark, but all part of the fun. (Mel nose dived down a bank). I think that the leopard count was on 9 now, which was a record for any of us.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:43 pm

August 29 Biyamiti to Tamboti

We woke up to a sight that gave everyone cold chills. Just outside the unit was a spoor that something had left during the night. Maybe it was the imagination running wild, but because of the night before we all thought, at the time, that the leopard from the night before was in the camp.

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Halfway to Crocodile Bridge, the trees were full of vultures around about where we had seen the hyenas the morning before. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a kill out there in the bush somewhere.

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Next stop was the Gomondwane bore hole which had 2 lions cooling off in the shade.

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We had a long drive ahead of us, so we stayed for 10 minutes and moved on. The drive to Tshokwane was very quiet until just before the picnic site. Lions had just crossed the road and were now sleeping in the thick bush about 100 meters from the crowded Tshokwane. Every now and then one sat up, but still behind thick bush. I was wondering what would happen and what I would do if they walked into Tshokwane.

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We all had a takeaway (boerie roll for me again), a loo break and jumped back in the cars. The giant Baobab still looked the same a year later and a large elephant was scratching himself against a tree 50 meters off in the bush.

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The next stretch of the H1-3 from Kumana dam till about 3km outside Satara has been the most unsuccessful road for me over the years and today was no exception. After half an hour we were stopping for impala just to show the kids something.

We arrived at Satara at about 12 and the usual welcoming party of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo were all waiting just outside the camp. We searched for 10 minutes for the resident Scops owl and my naughty middle one, Kristen, could not help posing on the cheetah statue.

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Then off to the deli and the Springbok versus Australia rugby match. There was a large crowd gathered for the game and it was surprisingly festive, much to the confusion of some of the international tourists and non rugby supporters. The Springboks lost in the last 5 minutes, so with a long face we were off to Tamboti.

Next stop was Nsemani dam, just in time to see a large herd of elephants come for a drink. The elephants must have been very thirsty as some were running down to the water. A few crocodiles on the bank got the fright of their lives and charged into the water.

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A fish eagle also made an on and off appearance.

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The drive to Orpen on the H7, for the Tamboti book in, was very quiet except for our first lot of ostriches.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:46 pm

Late Afternoon Drive: Tamboti to Bobbejaankrans

Tamboti, in my opinion, is very good value for money, as one gets the true bush experience and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. The units seemed well maintained and all have a perimeter view of the dry river bed (although some have much better views than others, so it’s probably best to book per unit number).

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The afternoon drive was a very short drive, because we were all tired from the long morning and it’s also nice to just sit on a chair at Tamboti and watch the life in the camp and on the perimeter. Our first sighting was at the Orpen water hole.

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Next was this strange bird, I initially thought that it was a juvenile Kori Bustard, but now I’m not sure and then a Bateleur a few km later.

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Then an unfortunate incident, or sighting if you want to call it that, took place. A few km from Bobbejaankrans 2 taxis had stopped on the side of the road and from a distance I could see about 30 people moving about in the grass next to the road. As we got closer it became clear what was going on. All the occupants of the taxis, men and women, were relieving themselves along the side of the road and many seemed rather drunk as there was a lot of staggering and shouting going on. I thought about making a scene, but quickly realized that it would escalate into a nasty situation.
Now we both had small girls in the car and this is not what we want them exposed to in Kruger, so we just did a u-turn and went back to camp, but the afternoon drive left a bad taste in my mouth.

Looking back on the incident, we should have gone to Orpen and reported it.

On the dirt road to the camp we found this little tortoise in the road. He was very shy, each time he put his head out I tried to take a picture, but he was too fast for me. We eventually had to drive slowly around him.

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Later during the braai a civet visited on and off, but was very skittish, because a couple of units down from us someone was having a birthday party and guests from all over the camp were attending, so there was a lot of night time traffic, shouting teenagers and noise, which put a damper on our Tamboti experience, but enough of the grumbling and depressing stuff.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger August 2009

Post by Bushcraft » Sun May 20, 2012 4:54 pm

August 30 Tamboti to Lower Sabie

We were up early this morning and left camp as the gates opened. The H7 had all the usual suspects, impala, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, elephant and another ostrich family.

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Just before the S100/H1-3 intersection there was a large traffic jam on the H1-3; lions had just crossed the road. We could still see them walking through the bush, I managed to count 5 of them, but it was very difficult to photograph them, but I eventually got this poor photo from a long way off.

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Then just before the H6/H1-3 intersection a badger ran across the road. I’m sure that badgers suffer from A.D.D, because we have seen a few over the years and they are almost impossible to photograph. We took about 20 attempted photos of this guy and most ended up of the grass where he was a second before or blurred, but none are worth posting.
We decided to stop at the Baobab tree for one last look. The tree still looked the same, so we went around the exit turning circle and suddenly my hawk-eye eldest shouted “leopard cub”. I don’t know how the adults never saw it, because it was 2 meters from the side of the road resting next to a tree.

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We were the only cars there for about 20 minutes and the cub became more relaxed and decided, much to my shock, to have a sleep 2 meters from us.

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Two cars drove straight pass us and gave us dirty looks for partly blocking the road. Eventually an elderly couple stopped next to us and asked “what are you guys doing”, Chantal indicated to the tree and said “look 2 meters in front of you”. Well I have never seen such shocked expressions in my life.

We sat with the cub and elderly couple for about another 20 minutes; when something caught the elderly couple’s attention just off to the right. It was the mother leopard and the 2nd cub. “Ours” then got up and slowly moved off in their direction and the family disappeared into the bush.

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The S125 was good to us on the way down from Talamati on the 2nd day, so we decided to take it again. 5km into the road we turned a corner and it was perfect timing, a whole pride of lions was busy crossing the road.

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There were 4 cubs and 8 females, the pride seemed to cross forever. It’s the biggest pride that we have ever seen all together.

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It looked like they had been feeding as some of them had old blood dried on their faces. It just occurred to me that we had the small 5 also.

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We sat in the road and threw ideas around about where the pride male would be and suddenly hawk-eyed Meegan screamed “Daddy lion”. Once again he was right there and we hadn’t seen him. He was just relaxing 10 meters into the bush and watching us. The car windows went up rather quickly and came slowly back down, but just enough to fit a camera through.

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The pride settled on the bank in the distance just above the dry river bed, but unfortunately for them a troop of baboons had also chosen the trees above the spot to relax and suddenly a mini war broke out. To my surprise the lions just lay there and ignored the baboon troop, which by now were shaking branches, charging along the ground and shouting as loud as possible. After 10 minutes the baboons realized that they were having no effect on the lions, so they moved off. Joining in on the fun was a herd of elephant in the river bed. Much trumpeting was heard in and out of our car.

5 minutes later the biggest male lion that I personally have ever seen came walking down the river bed in the distance. He was too far to photograph and unfortunately just as he came into camera range he ducked off into the bush and we only managed photos of his bum and looking at them now, none are worth posting. The strange thing is that he never joined the rest of the pride and the other male.


The next stop was for breakfast at Nhlanguleni and to top it off a herd of sable were right in front of the picnic site.

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The men were just finishing off the bacon in our hired skottel when a couple approached us and asked “Are you not afraid of the 4 lions in the grass”. Well, the bacon nearly landed on the floor, Chantal went into child protect mode and summoned the kids to the car, and all I could say was “We didn’t know they were there”.

They were very difficult to spot and one could only catch a glimpse of a head or a tail every now and then, but they seemed very relaxed and were only trying to have a nap in peace.

We finished breakfast a little more alert then earlier and continued down the S36.
Next stop was Lugmag dam and most of the usual dam suspects were present.

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A few km from Lugmag dam the road became very corrugated, so Chantal packed the cameras into bags as they kept falling off our laps, 2 minutes later as we turned a corner, I shouted “leopard, no sorry cheetah”. The cheetah was standing in the middle of the road 10 meters from the front of the cars. There was now a massive panic to get the cameras out and Chantal and I were fighting over the bags. The cheetah by now had moved onto the side of the road.

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She walked along the grass next to the side of the car for about a minute and then moved off into the bush.

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5 minutes later a large herd of sable came out the bush in the distance. They were all going at full throttle towards the road, so we picked a spot, stopped, and waited for them to cross the road. I underestimated their speed and only got grass in the first few photos, but eventually got it correct.

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There must have been at least 20 of them and the male took up the rear of the herd. He seemed to have a lot more confidence than the others.

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Halfway down the H4-1 we found some lions sunning on a rock in the distance, but too far to photograph with the cameras. Just past them we found this southern ground hornbill and a fish eagle.

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It was about 2pm now and had been a long day for the kids, so we pushed on to Lower Sabie, but just before Lower Sabie there was a large traffic jam in the road and vultures in the trees about 20 meters off the road. We battled to find what all the commotion was about, but eventually got into position for this rather poor photo.

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He must have had a kill in the shade somewhere down there, because the vultures were landing on the ground now and mock charging him, but he just seemed to ignore them.

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