Brown's in Kruger June 2010 *

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Bushcraft
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Re: Brown's in Kruger June 2010

Post by Bushcraft » Mon May 21, 2012 10:07 am

Afternoon Drive: H6/S41/S100

On the way down to the H6 a traffic jam appeared where we had found the lone female lion earlier, but this time everyone was looking at a buffalo lying in the grass about 100m from where the lion had been. We looked around for the lion, but she was nowhere to be found, surely everyone wasn’t here for the buffalo, I wanted to say “There’s a few more 100m outside Satara”

5 minutes later everyone was still looking at the buffalo, so I assumed that we were missing something and pulled next to the vehicle that looked to have the friendliest occupants asked what was happening.

Apparently a female lion had tackled the buffalo in the early hours, a massive fight took place, the lion ended up going one way, the buffalo the other, and now the buffalo was seriously injured and everyone was waiting to see if the lion would return or if any other predators arrived. Garth and Mel had also received a similar story from another group. I can only assume that the injured lion that we saw earlier was the same one in the story.

The buffalo didn’t look that injured to us as he seemed to move freely every now and then, so we decided to continue with our route and come back for a look just before gate closing.

Just before the H6 turn off a Bateleur landed for a few seconds.

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The H6 was very unproductive, but a stop at Nwanetsi picnic site, which is a favourite of mine, is always worthwhile. After quick stop at the view point and a toilet break we were back on the road.

The S41 was just as bad as the H6, the odd wildebeest, impala and zebra, but no real game concentration.

The start of the S100 was also quiet and then came the cars. I have never seen the S100 this busy. I felt like I was doing the Dakar rally, dust and all, but at 25km an hour. No wonder all the game had disappeared, they would probably choke on all the dust if they stood anywhere near the road.

Luckily we found this guy a few km in (he wasn’t wearing a dust mask), but we had no time to wait for him to stand up for a better picture. (The afternoon drives always felt rushed, because of the late book in time)

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Just around the corner we found some waterbuck

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By now we just wanted to get out of the traffic, one could barely see the road let alone game.

We stopped quickly at the injured buffalo location, but he had moved off, so obviously wasn’t badly injured.

Mel had kindly offered to cook supper tonight, which gave Garth and I a break from braaiing, so we settled down to uploading cameras, etc. Halfway through copying pictures, Chantal and Mel, who had been relaxing on the veranda, ran inside shouting “badger, badger”. Garth and I looked blankly at them and said “where”. Chantal’s tone went up a notch and she was almost running on the spot “outside, outside”. (I think that she had got a fairly large fright).

Now it was our turn to panic, no cameras ready, etc.

All nine of us squeezed onto to the veranda with cameras and torches.

The bush next to the veranda started moving and here he came at full sprint. Chaos followed, flashes going off, torches trying to track him, kids shrieking, etc. He ran around the back of my chalet and Garth and I tried to follow him, but he disappeared, suddenly the shrieking started from the front of the unit again, he was circling the chalet. I beat Garth to the front and roared off after him, but soon hit brakes when I felt the first patch of paper thorns (no shoes again) and remembered, as I lost sight of him, that I had no torch. I now thought “this is dangerous animal” and roared off as fast back to the veranda. This is the only photo that we managed to get of him.

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Chantal was turning her nose up at our lack of photographic evidence until she realized that she had filmed the whole thing with the “0 lux” video camera and had forgotten to take the lens cap off. After that I was fairly proud of my photo.

Madison’s mumps had really reached peak now and we were contemplating going back down to the Skukuza doctor, but after a few phone calls the advice was, let it run its course for now as all a doctor will do is give you pain medication.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger June 2010

Post by Bushcraft » Mon May 21, 2012 10:11 am

June 13th Satara Chalets to Satara Stanley Guest house

The kids had been nagging to go up to the elephant museum and we knew that we couldn’t book in to Stanley until 2pm and therefore needed something to do for the day, so we packed early and headed up to Letaba.

There’s just one problem, the southern section of Kruger compares with just about anywhere in the world (according to Getaway magazine) when it comes to the amount of animals per hectare, but the same cannot be said about sections above Olifants, so a quiet day, as expected, came to be.

Morning/Mid Day Drive: H7/S12/S40/Timbavati/S127/H1-4/H1-5/Letaba/H1-5/H8/Olifants/H1-4/Satara

Just outside Satara we found 2 hyenas still hanging around from the previous night.

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The first section of the H7 produced massive herds of waterbuck (it’s the largest quantity of waterbuck that I have ever seen in one area), but not much else appeared until midway through the S12 where we found some vultures (Chantal and I are arguing over the model, please can someone give us an ID)

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Girivana dam is a beautiful place and one can see why lions are often see there, because there was a lot of general game hanging around on the fringes, but no lion this morning.

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The S40 to Timbavati picnic site produced a few giraffe and kudu.

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Garth hired a skottel when we arrived at Timbavati picnic site and we started bacon and eggs. It’s a beautiful little picnic site, but I can imagine that it gets very full later in the day. It was a fairly chilly morning, so Chantal and Mel had to upgrade their clothes to Lesotho highland attire.

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On the S127 we found a mother and baby rhino. The baby was one of the smallest that we had ever seen.

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The H1-4 ended up being rather entertaining. Every couple of km we found steenbok and then ostrich and much to Chantal’s delight many Kori Bustards

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Next we found a rhino, which caused a bit of concern as he had a bleeding wound on his back leg, which looked rather like a bullet wound, but after careful inspection we assumed that it was probably from another rhino.

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Next was Chantal’s favourite bird. We had already seen hundreds and had many photos, but under instruction, I had to stop and photograph this one.

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Then we found a lone elephant in the middle of nowhere. The bush opens up on this road and one can see for km and as far as we could see in any direction there were no other elephant.

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Our next stop was the bridge over the Olifants River, where one is allowed out of the vehicle between the two red lines. Meegan (our nine year old) is very proud of the photo that she took of the Crocodile from the top of the bridge.

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We spent 10 minutes just watching the hippos moving up and down the river, but after the bridge things were very quiet all the way to Letaba, but some of the scenery is awesome.


By the time we reached Letaba my youngest was very miserable with the mumps and had cried and moaned for the last 30 minutes into Letaba, so my stress levels were going through the roof, but fortunately the museum calmed both of us down.

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Garth and Mel’s youngest and our middle one loved posing for photos in the museum.

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The viewing deck at Letaba is beautiful and we spent 10 minutes just relaxing, watching the birds and some giant elephants crossing further up the river.

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The original plan was to head down to Olifants via the dirt roads, but after the long drive up we decided to use the tar roads.

We found a group of Ground Hornbills on the way down to Olifants, but nothing else.

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The views at Olifants are spectacular

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The last time I stayed at Olifants camping was still allowed, so it’s been many years and would love to spend a night there at some stage in the future. All the renovations are complete and the new setup looks awesome. (1 problem, there’s no 5 sleeper units besides the guest houses)

Garth kindly brought us all ice creams and we sat on the viewing deck and just relaxed for half an hour. While we were sitting there a herd of elephant made their way across the river.

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Back on the H1-4 we started to come into a larger concentration of animals again, first we found this Bateleur.

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Then we found an elephant with a rather over endowed body part, his trunk, for those of you that thought otherwise. A herd of zebra were desperate to get to the water, but this guy refused to move and almost looked asleep.

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All the ostriches, kori bustards and zebra were still there and just before Satara more buffalo and elephant.

When we arrived at Satara we were still about an hour early for the book in time, but our small one was now very miserable, so Chantal insisted on trying our luck at an early book in and fortunately she managed to charm the keys out of the office a half an hour early.


The first thing that we noticed about Stanley was the little waterhole just off to the left of the unit. There were zebra and giraffe drinking in front of us while we were unpacking. Stanley’s old, but neat and for me the waterhole makes up for everything else, we saw more game in the 1st hour at the fence then we had seen most of the morning.

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2 large elephant then came in to drink and chased all the other game to the fringes.

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We sat and watched them drink peacefully for about 20 minutes and suddenly things started to change, I’m not sure if one stood on the others foot or one decided that this was his spot, but the peaceful situation became war.

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I’m still not sure how Garth managed to focus his camera through the gaps in the fence without frying himself.

The fight ended when the biggest bully stabbed the other in the side, which seemed to stop the fight immediately. They both seemed ok and went on their separate ways.

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I have to say that standing behind that little fence (which I’m glad was there at the time) watching this take place 30m away was an amazing experience for all of us.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger June 2010

Post by Bushcraft » Mon May 21, 2012 10:12 am

Afternoon Drive: S100

We spent a little too long watching our own private waterhole and time had flown by, so we decided to brave the S100 once more for a short drive.
Our first sighting was just outside the camp, another Bateleur.

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Then the S100 doldrums hit and we saw nothing all the way to the S41, so we decided to do a little of the S41, which was as bad, so we turned around and headed back towards the S100. We did however see the usual hippo at the N’wanetsi crossing.

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Halfway down the S100 we found the telltale traffic jam. We eventually made our way through the crowd and into position to view what had caused such a stir. It was a male lion having a snooze.

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Gate closing time was approaching fast and mister lion looked very content and in no mood to move, so we took a few quick photos and moved on. I’m always amazed at these crowded sightings how some individuals park in the middle of the road and refuse to move even though they are blocking traffic in both directions.

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We joined the dust snake and slowly followed the queue back to Satara. After a stressful blind half an hour, we swore that we would never drive the S100 in the afternoon during holiday season again. Our own private Stanley waterhole, a braai and a beer soon improved the mood.

A few minutes after we started the fire a large buffalo herd moved in on the waterhole. Some of them stood as close as 10m from the fence. At the same time hyena began calling up and down the fence line. A few minutes later the first hyena walked along the fence line and they kept coming past every 20 minutes, until one was chased off by a buffalo, which resulted in them disappearing for a while. It was hard to concentrate on braaiing the meat with all this action happening and in the heat of the moment I swore that I would sit up all night and watch the show, but after supper and a few beers, I felt different about the situation.

We had one last show before going to bed. The buffalo had moved off and a “small” elephant had moved in and was drinking when out of the darkness a massive elephant appeared and walked up to the waterhole. He was the biggest tusker that we had ever seen, cameras and flashes were going, but I was a few beers down and realized that I was about to fry on the fence, so gave up, but Garth kept trying, Mel was doing torch duty, Chantal caught it all on the “0 lux” video camera (this time removed the lens cap) and I was up and down the fence line doing commentary.

Suddenly the buffalo returned and to our amazement charged the 2 elephant. The small elephant took off into the darkness, but the massive tusker was trying to maintain his dignity, so did a small reversing act, moved slowly off into the darkness and hid his head behind a tree. We have no idea why or what he was trying to do, but he stayed there for 10 minutes and then moved off.

All I can say in summary is that we have never had such an exciting evening in KNP and Stanley House rocks.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger June 2010

Post by Bushcraft » Mon May 21, 2012 10:16 am

June 14th Satara to Lower Sabie

Morning Drive: S100 and Back

We decided to do a short morning drive and head back to Stanley for an 8:30am breakfast, before the 10am book out time.
We still hadn’t driven the S100 in the morning on this trip and hoped that it would be more productive when it was a little quieter, by 6:05am we were on the road and headed straight for the S100, with the hope of beating the crowds and traffic, more than a few people had the same idea, but not nearly as bad as the afternoon drives.

A few km into the S100 we found this female lion walking just off the road.

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She settled down in the grass, proceeded to groom herself, and did a little early morning sun tanning.

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After 20 minutes a few more cars started to arrive, but it seems that the early morning crowd have a little more manners then the afternoon gang and although it was starting to become crowded, it remained peaceful, that is until the occupants of my car started to ruin the sighting for the people next to us.

We had forgotten to give Madison her pain medication for the mumps, so she was therefore developing a fever and was very miserable. This caused her to irritate her older 2 sisters and a full scale fight erupted in the back seat, which of course spilt over to the front seat and Chantal and I joined the commotion “Why haven’t you give her the medicine?”, “Why do I always have to do it, why didn’t you?”

I looked around and realized that we had become the sighting and were quickly becoming more interesting then the lion for some people, but others looked like they wanted to duck tape the entire car, so I jumped on the walkie talkie and informed Garth that we were going to move along with the hope that we could get the suppository in while driving.

About 500m down the road we were still squabbling when I noticed 3 impala, just off to the right, standing stiff legged and barking. I was halfway through the sentence “what’s going on here”, when I screamed “lion cubs” and slammed on brakes. Chantal had packed the cameras away and was scratching through her bag looking for the suppository, which caused the squabbling to escalate, because the cubs, which were in the road, had got a fright and were moving off to the bush next to the road and we had no video footage or photos.

I jumped back on the walkie talkie to inform Garth and Mel about the cubs, but they must have been out of range as we got no response, and Chantal was frantically trying to get the cameras ready.

The 3 cubs settled down in thick bush 10m away and unless you knew precisely where to look they were almost invisible. We were all alone with them as the rest of the crowd was still with the female, which we assume may be the mother, just up the road.

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We all sat quietly and waited, with the hope that they would come back out. After 5 minutes one chap sat up and starting calling (It’s amazing to listen to it on the video footage)

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A few seconds later I looked in my rear view mirror and saw 2 tour operators flying down the road towards us; their occupants had obviously got bored of the female lion, but they must have received sighting news from other operators, because they didn’t even stop, which suited us just fine.

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A few minutes later, Garth and Mel arrived and we all sat, watched and waited, with the hope that the calling would bring the mother in and that the cubs would come out when they saw her, but the crowd of onlookers continued to grow, so the cubs got more nervous and ran off into deeper bush.

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A few seconds later, our small one Madison, in the back seat said “That’s my sighting, I if hadn’t felt sick we wouldn’t have seen the cubs”. Chantal and I were speechless, but the 2 older sisters seemed to agree and proceeded to thank her.


2km further we found what may have been the dad. We could see more of his stomach then the rest of him.

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Thirty meters further we found what I think is a Verreaux’s eagle owl. He/she (if you look carefully) had caught something

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Fifty meters further we found another male lion, which must be the brother of the one a 100m back.

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The S100 was cooking this morning, we had only done half of our planned route and were running out of time, so after a walkie talkie conference, we decided to head back to Stanley.

The waterbuck herd made an appearance a few km before the tar.

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Everyone was still stoked when we arrived back at Stanley at about 8:45am, but we still had to pull finger to cook breakfast and pack in just over an hour.

The cleaners, to my confusion, were already in the house, I thought that we had until 10am under the new rules. My frustration grew when I kept tripping over them when cooking breakfast and packing the cars.

We left for Lower Sabie just before 10am. Personally I was sad to see the back of Stanley and made a vow to book it again one day.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger June 2010

Post by Bushcraft » Mon May 21, 2012 10:17 am

Mid Day Drive: H1-3/H1-2/H12/H4-1 to Lower Sabie

Our first sighting was this beautiful lady just outside the camp, she seemed to love having her picture taken.

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A couple of km later this guy crossed the road in front of us, but he definitely didn’t like having his picture taken. I think that he had a little of the Biyamiti Benz.

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Next up was an ostrich right next to the side of the road. She wasn’t shy, but her man stayed at a distance

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Then just before the S125/H1-3 intersection Kruger chaos was starting to unfold and many people had completely lost their minds. The one “gentlemen” was even standing on the roof of his car.

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After 20 minutes we started to move through the chaos and found the reason for the commotion.

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I personally think that the poor leopard was too afraid to come out of the tree. We snapped a few very quick photos and continued through the scrum, as this was not the kind of sighting that’s enjoyable, leopard or no leopard. If more people just had some basic manners, this type of sighting would still be ok, but to get stuck in the middle of a hooting, arm waving, shouting scrum is no fun. (Rule 1: don’t block the road)

We stopped at Kumana dam for 5 minutes to recover from the scrum and Garth managed to snap this guy in flight, I think that it may have been a Bateleur. Chantal also found what I think is a Spoonbill.

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We stopped quickly at Tshokwane for a toilet break and a look at the sighting board, both routes to Lower Sabie seemed fairly quiet, so we just continued down the H1-2.

Garth found this guy cruising through the river bed next to the H12 Bridge.

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All the usual suspects, including elephant and buffalo, made an appearance on the H4-1, but we were all tired now and just wanted to get out of the car

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Lower Sabie reception kindly gave us our keys half an hour early and we were off to unpack.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger June 2010

Post by Bushcraft » Mon May 21, 2012 10:18 am

Afternoon Drive: H4-1 to H12 Bridge and Back

It’s difficult to do long afternoon drives with the current late book in and although we got in a little early through sweet talking from Mel, one still needs time to relax before jumping back in the car, so we ended up leaving late again. We had a small conference before leaving and the plan was to get to the H12 Bridge and if we still had time, to push on until the Garmin shouted turn around.

The first part of the H4-1 produced the usual suspects, but we were looking for something in particular, although at the time I’m not sure if any of us knew what it was. We always drive the N’watimhiri causeway and today was no exception. The resident Malachite Kingfisher which we had found a few days earlier was still there.

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When we reached the H12 Bridge things were looking tight on my Garmin, but Garth continued and I followed.

About 2km past the H12 Bridge a small pond of water had formed next to the side of the road, a pond that we had never seen on our previous trips, but good rains had fallen this year. Suddenly Garth stopped ahead of us and all we could see were frantic hand signals through the back window of Garth’s car (The walkie talkie batteries had died).

I realized immediately that this must be important and then I saw them

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My senses seem to change at these adrenalin charged sightings, everything seems to happen in slow motion and for some reason I lose my hearing (maybe that happens on purpose). One spends so long looking for something and most times you find it where you least expect it.

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Every time they tried to drink, something in the water scared them, but we couldn’t see anything. It seemed as if they were scared of their own reflection.

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Eventually Meegan caught one drinking on the other side of the pond.

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We spent about 5 minutes with them and gradually, one at a time, they moved off into the bush. I now understood why wild dogs are often difficult to find, because the window of opportunity is so small.

The Garmin by now was having a heart attack, so we did a quick u-turn and headed back to Lower Sabie.

I was in front now and had blinkers on because of the time, but about 20 minutes later, we reached the
N’watimhiri causeway and we seemed to have panicked for nothing, because the Garmin now indicated that we would arrive 20 minutes early, so I indicated to Garth behind me - “Left onto the causeway or straight “, he indicated that we should carry on straight, which I found strange, because we always did the causeway, but I carried on straight.

2km later we came over a blind rise and these guys were in the road right in front of us

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It took a few seconds for me to realize what was in the road and then it was our turn to produce the frantic hand signals. (After shouting into a dead walkie talkie). We couldn’t believe our luck, 2 wild dog packs in the space of half an hour and these guys seemed to be on a hunting mission.

We slowly followed them down the road for about 15 minutes. They kept sniffing, looking, stopping, etc and I felt it was only a matter of time before they found an impala or something.

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2 members of the pack seemed to forget about the hunting mission and decided to hunt each other, fortunately the kids missed this one (I don’t think that the big bully excuse would have worked here)

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The kids caught the next one though and the comments all started at once “It’s weeing on the road, gross, sis, etc” and then to top it off one decided to poo in the road right next to the car, which caused the uproar in the back seat to grow even more.

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We were so caught up in the sighting and had forgotten about the time, the Garmin now said that we would arrive 1 minute before gate closing, so once again the mind started juggling, one last photo, they are bound to make a kill, we will apologize nicely, but fortunately sanity prevailed again and we took 1 last photo and left them behind

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We drove the last few km back to camp in silence, obviously all thinking about the last hour in KNP. My grin started to turn into a large lip when I realized that our time in KNP was ticking away and tomorrow was our last day in the park.

Garth and Mel had an FU5 for tonight and we had an EH5, but unfortunately for us, a tour group operator was entertaining his group in front of the units (although the group never slept in any units in that area). I’m not the “huddle around a fire and sing Kumbaya” type of person, but luckily the FU5’s have a small wood slat fence to hide behind.

After more than a few beers, I warmed up to this camping type social atmosphere and decided to relay our wild dog sightings, but had my bubble burst when I was told by the tourists “They are just dogs, where’s the lions, elephants and leopard”, so I put my tail between my legs and went to sleep. Lying in bed, my temperature began to rise and I was ready to give a KNP education, but fortunately fell asleep.

What a day it had ended up, the big 5, cubs and 2 wild dog packs.

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Re: Brown's in Kruger June 2010

Post by Bushcraft » Mon May 21, 2012 10:21 am

June 15th Lower Sabie to Home

Today was our last day in the park, so the vehicles were packed in silence this morning.

The 16th was a public holiday; therefore we had time to do a little more exploring before leaving the park, because even if we got home late, we still had a day to relax before work started again.

Garth passed me the now fully charged walkie talkie and we were on our way to Nkuhlu for breakfast, but I lost Garth and Mel just pasted Sunset dam, then my cell phone rang, Garth’s walkie talkie was missing and believed to be in their unit at Lower Sabie, but the keys were already in the exit box and the unit was locked. Luckily Mel has octopus paws and managed to get the key out the box, but the walkie talkie wasn’t in the unit. Fortunately it was found a few minutes later in the car, so the convoy was back on the road.

We found most of the usual suspects and a few elephant in the Sabie river bed, for the first half an hour, but just before the causeway we found 2 cars on the side of the road and sitting in a tree next to the road was our going away gift.

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This leopard was 10m away and almost impossible to see, I take my hat off to the occupants of the first vehicle that spotted him, we would have driven straight past. We spent 15 minutes trying to get a better view of him, but it seemed that he had chosen a perfect spot and the camouflage ability was incredible.

Garth eventually managed to get an angle on him and caught his face peeking through the bush.

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I was keen to sit and wait next to the tree (The base of the tree was only 5 meters from the front of the car), because although the leopard had probably already drunk from the Sabie and with this much attention building, he was bound to get uncomfortable and move off to thicker bush, therefore would come down right in front of us.

Then the comments started from the peanut gallery “I need the toilet, why are we waiting, when are we going to eat breakfast, she stole my crayons, she’s not sharing the juice, etc, etc”, so the decision was taken to continue on. The joys of kids!!

It was still early when we arrived at Nkuhlu, so we decided to continue to our wild dog waterhole just past the H12 Bridge. There were more of the usual suspects up to the bridge, but just past the bridge a nasty sight waited for us.

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We were the only cars at the scene when we arrived and I personally didn’t know what to do, must we drive to Skukuza and report it, or wait for someone heading that way and ask them to report it for us.

My middle one Kristen always spends a long time at the Lower Sabie boards looking at the destruction of wildlife caused by poachers, it seems to upset her every time and a few seconds later she was crying in the back seat and mumbling “poachers.” Chantal managed to explain that it was probably a hit and run, which calmed her slightly. Judging by the length of the skid marks on the road, the vehicle must have been travelling at speed.

A few minutes later a Sanparks vehicle arrived and they moved the impala off the road. They said that it had been reported and that it was a truck doing early morning deliveries. What a pity.

The kids were starting to get hungry now, so we headed back to Nkuhlu for bacon and eggs.

We found a Grey-headed Kingfisher and a Tawny eagle (I think that we have the models correct) on the way.

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Just before Nkuhlu an elephant stuck his head out of the bush right next to the car, which gave Chantal her last shock for the trip.

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Nkuhlu was surprisingly full and there were no more skottels left for hire, but eventually Garth managed to scratch one together. I left Garth to start the skottel and went to the car to get all the utensils.
Walking back to our spot I saw kids running and Mel hitting Garth on the head. I couldn’t help laughing, but when I got closer I realized that something serious had happened.

The skottel had burst into flames when Garth tried to light it and his hair was on fire, hence the hitting, fortunately he had his sunglasses on, which saved his eyes, but he now had a Mohawk hairstyle.

We eventually begged a skottel from someone who had finished and got breakfast on the go.

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On the way down to Crocodile Bridge we had an interesting sighting on the causeway.

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It was quiet all the way down to Crocodile Bridge; everyone seemed to be wrapped up in their own thoughts as the reality that we were leaving was starting to sink in.

We all said our family goodbyes and were on our separate ways. Those drives home from Kruger are always the longest and quietest.

Lastly I would like to thank all of you that took the time to read our adventure.

Thanks
Hayden, Chantal, Garth, Mel and Kids.

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