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Sharifa

Kruger: Images and memories

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Sharifa

I have been inspired by Twaffle to do this Trip Report, well, not quite a trip report but more my memoirs of a place I have travelled extensively and I love dearly.

 

Having grown up in Mpumalanga (Formerly Eastern Transvaal), close to the Kruger National Park, my earliest memory of Kruger was when I was about 5 years. During the school holidays we, my siblings and I, were bundled off to Kruger on camping trips. I loved the excitement of being out in the wild looking for animals and not knowing what we will see around every bend. The barbeques and sitting around the fire at night listening to the stories we were told are priceless memories.

 

My father was an avid photographer though his camera of choice was the 16mm “movie camera” as he called it. That is where my love for photography and wildlife started; the first time I held his camera I was hooked. Though sadly, I do not have any of his “movie clips” or photos, just this one of the family and me as a five year old (in front, on the left) at the Kruger Tablets taken in 1961

 

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These are some postcards from that era that I have

 

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Those were the days of apartheid. Accommodation for Blacks was only available at Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Balule and Letaba. Three huts in each of these camps were fenced off for Blacks. Nevertheless we did not dwell on where we could not stay but enjoyed just being in Kruger.

 

Most of the photos and memoirs I share with you are from the past thirty three years. Panthera Pardus and I have shared a love for Kruger and have travelled there for the past thirty three years and done seventy trips. We have travelled every road in Kruger and stayed in all the camps bar Tsendse and the Private Concessions.

 

Our children have grown up to share this love as well. We have seen Kruger change from a wilderness to a developed Game Park. We have witnessed the birth of new camps like Berg-en-Dal and Mopani, the Bush Camps, Biyamiti, Talamati, Sirheni and Bateleur. We witnessed the opening of new gates and roads.

 

My children and nieces at Skukuza Reception area circa 1989

 

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My children at Albasini Ruins in the early Nineties

 

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Kruger now, as then, still delivers and is in our blood. So join me as we slowly and leisurely travel together through Kruger.

 

 

 

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michael-ibk

@@Sharifa :

 

Vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvery much looking forward to this. :)

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AKR1

Wonderful start. Look forward to your reminisces of Kruger through the past several decades.

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Game Warden

Putting the kettle on. So looking forward to this personal history from Kruger. Can't wait to see if you have old photos of Shingwedzi :)

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Sangeeta

Oh my, oh my - here's another kettle going on the hob :) Hoping this thread will accompany my afternoon chai for some time to come.

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africapurohit

I think this will be epic and I just love the grain on old photos - more please :)

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twaffle

How wonderful, can't wait to see Kruger through your eyes. Love the Citroen!!!

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johnkok

Sharifa,

 

I am so looking forward to your reminiscences. Those old cars certainly stirred some memories. I've been in them. It was always a treat to get into my uncle's Citroën and feel it rise up when the engine started. And lions feasting on giraffe right next to the cars! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I myself would have gone on a safari in Africa. It was the stuff of legends and movies. Born Free, Out of Africa, Daktari,... (We never even had a TV in the house until years after my cousins did). And here I am, privileged and fortunate enough to share my own experiences with others on SafariTalk, and being able to have a deeper understanding of others' safari experiences.

 

Twaffle's take on what it was like growing up in Kenya. And now yours on Kruger and SA. Can't wait.

 

John

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Sharifa

Thank you @@michael-ibk, @@AKR1, @@africapurohit the old photos have a beauty of the era and yet back then we complained about the quality

 

Just have to bear with me @@Game Warden, it is going to be a long and winding road to Shingwedzi since we are starting in the south. So get comfortable and enjoy the chai

 

@@Sangeeta - chai is served, masala or plain? Chalo Africa!

 

@@twaffle - thank you for the inspiration and I love the citroen too. As children we called it the "Frog" because it lifted up when you started the engine

 

We did not have TV in South Africa till 1976, @@johnkok. The first time we watched TV was in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, when we visited our family living there

 

At a young age I realized how special we were to have Kruger in our backyard. Especially since many of my friends had never been.

 

 

 

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Sharifa

Crocodile Bridge (CB)

 

Although I enjoyed the 16mm Movie Camera (when I was allowed to handle it) I really wanted to do stills photography. On my 21st Birthday my Dad bought me a Canon AT-1 with a 50mm lens. Many of my photos are with this system. Later Panthera Pardus (PP) bought me a Tokina f/4.5 80-200 lens.

 

Having decided on this venture, I found the memories flooding back. Like the time we had a wonderful sighting of lions on a giraffe kill, they had brought it down on the road and were feasting. I felt that I had some awesome photos. In those days you had to have your photos developed once you got home, and I sent them for developing but the Developer’s machine broke and all the photos and negatives were destroyed!

 

Another incident was when I had taken photos at a sighting of cheetah and as we drove off little hands reached for the camera and opened the back, pulled out the film and exclaimed he could not see the cheetah photos!

 

On one of our trips the camera shutter jammed and we had one of our more amazing trips and no record of it all! We saw a cheetah with five cubs on the road early in the morning and we were the only car. Later in the afternoon we came across 3 leopard cubs. These are forever etched in my memory.

 

More stories later, now it is time to enter the Park. I have decided to enter from the south at Crocodile Bridge and make our way up to the north.

 

Crocodile Bridge is an entry gate camp. It has accommodation to cater for the camper as well as huts and tented units if you do not want to rough it out. It is a fairly small camp though it is quite a busy place because of the entrance gate and the fact that the area is well known for the big five sightings as well cheetah and wild dogs. Stay away during weekends and school holidays if you do not like crowds

 

You can get a lot more out of Kruger if you know what you looking for. Both PP and I have done the Kruger Course for Honorary Rangers. Kruger has a number of Ecozones, determined by the geology, and the fauna and flora is determined by the annual rainfall and the soil type. In simple terms, CB is in a sweet grass area and therefore attracts plenty of herbivores which attract the predators. The CB area is also the winter grazing area of zebra and wildebeest, some of them migrate south from the Satara area. The CB/Lower Sabie area together with the Satara area has the highest density of lions. So it is not unusual to find this on the road first thing in the morning.

 

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In fact if you lucky you can find all of the big five in one morning on a drive north to Lower Sabie, we have on a few occasions.

 

However, our reason for staying at CB is that the S28 is one of the best roads in Kruger for cheetah. You can find them here in the morning

 

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It is also the area where Duke, the great Tusker, hung around. Duke has died but we had the pleasure of seeing him, just after he lost one of his tusks

 

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View My Video

 

View My Video

 

We had another memorable sighting on the S28 - coming up next.

 

 

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africapurohit

@@Sharifa I was fortunate to see Duke during my honeymoon in 2002 - he was a magnificent sight.

 

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Geoff

Fantastic so far...

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Sangeeta

@@Sharifa - always masala! For all that I can be snooty about wine and sniff and swirl and spit with the best of them, with chai I am a desi :D

 

You & PP are single- (or should it be double-) handedly changing so many minds about SA with these 2 TRs. Great ambassadors of your country.

 

Particularly interested in reading about your impressions about Kruger before it became a managed park.

 

Duke is a beaut.

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marg

This is like being in history class. Most of us are relative newcomers to Africa. So, this is a pleasure to read and to see.

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Sharifa

@@africapurohit - how lucky, what a special sighting of Duke.

 

Thank you @@Geoff.

 

@@Sangeeta, Duke was a beaut and a very gentle elephant. There is a Elephant Hall in Letaba Camp, where all the tusks of the great tuskers are on display - Dukes tusks will be set up there too. Will talk more on this when we get to the Letaba area.

 

We loved Kruger of the 70s and 80s. In the ideal world we all would love quiet parks and have sightings to ourselves. In the real world change and development are inevitable. We are now getting on to a very hot subject (think Vindaloo Sangeeta :) ). With the change in South Africa post 1994, National Parks receive smaller and smaller subsidies from Government who have other priorities and Kruger basically has to fund itself and some of the other smaller parks. The present administration also are now coming up with all kinds of innovative ways to raise funds. - read Hotel in Kruger and Cycling in the Kgalagadi - very controversial topics. Public outcry managed to put a halt to the cycling event in the Kgalagadi for now. The hotel topic is still very hot. It is undergoing an Environmental Impact Study for a go/no go.

 

The other side of the coin is that corruption is rife amongst politicians and many Nature Lovers say that if we did not have all this corruption, there would be enough funds for conservation. People were evicted from Kruger for conservation. The last evictions were in the 60s and kruger is also faced with land claims. The Makuleke People won such a claim and now benefit from running a concession in Northern Kruger.

 

The Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park was a great concept as it opened a bigger area for conservation and would ease on the growing elephant population in Kruger but with it has come the rhino poaching since 2008. All indications are the fence will go back up. Kruger is faced with many challenges but I think it is still one of the Great Parks on the planet for diversity of wildlife: 147 mammals, over 500 bird species, over 2000 plant species, 112 reptiles. We can still find quiet spots and special sightings.

 

@@marg - thank you and glad you enjoying it.

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Sharifa

Before I tell you about the other sighting on the S28 that took my breath away, I have to say that the H4-2, which is the tarred road running from CB to Lower Sabie (LS) is also a very productive road. Though there can be heavy traffic on this road, rhinos, lions and leopards have been seen here regularly especially in the early mornings and evenings. We prefer the S28 because of the chance to see cheetahs and to get away from the traffic.

 

On the H4-2 near the Gasanftombi Dam, there is a pride of lions quite famous for their tree climbing abilities. They are called the Vurhami Pride, named after the Vurhami River that flows into the Gasanftombi Dam.

 

The Gomondwane Waterhole on the H5, a dirt road, is another good spot for lions to be seen.

Now to get back to the sighting.

 

This was a special sighting, a once in a lifetime sighting. We were out looking for cheetah and Duke on the S28. We did find a cheetah but not the way we would have like one.

 

A cheetah chased down an impala and made the kill successfully, unbeknown to him he was being watched by a leopard sitting in the huge fever tree. Being the opportunist that he is, the leopard stealthily came down and made his way to the cheetah who by now was devouring his meal as fast as he possibly could. The cheetah had dropped his guard and paid the ultimate price, his life.

 

The impala and the cheetah now hung side by side up on the fever tree with the leopard enjoying his free meal.

This is the scene that could have played out here. Nobody knows for sure but urban legends are made of stuff like this.

However, when we arrived on the scene we saw the cheetah and impala hanging from the huge fever tree and the leopard, eating the impala. Interestingly he did not eat the cheetah but dropped it to the ground the next morning.

 

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View My Video

 

View My Video

 

 

 

 

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JohnR

Interestingly he did not eat the cheetah but dropped it to the ground the next morning.

 

 

Perhaps the leopard did not like fast food :rolleyes:

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Pennyanne

@@Sharifa this is a wonderful report/memoir! I'm very much looking forward to the rest with great anticipation.

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AKR1

Wow. I have never seen pictures of a leopard with a cheetah kill on a tree before. This report is getting better and better. ?

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Geoff

Incredible, a very rare & unique sighting indeed!!

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Sharifa

@@Pennyanne, @@AKR1, @@Geoff, thanks for the comments. Very rare sighting indeed and doubt we will ever see something like that again but anything is possible as you will see in the next post.

@@JohnR - just love the comment about the fast food :D

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Sharifa

I cannot stress enough how rich this area between CB and Lower Sabie is with game. Unfortunately the secret is out and there is always a scramble for bookings at CB and LS. They are the first camps to be booked out when bookings open especially Lower Sabie.

 

The H4-2, south of LS up to the S28 turnoff is prime leopard territory. The Sabie River runs along this section of the road, therefore the dense vegetation is perfect for the leopard to hunt. The highest density of leopards in the world are said to be along the Sabie River. We have had some amazing sightings on this section of the H4-2 and this stands out as one of the best for me.

 

It was on 04 April 2009, we were on our way to LS on the S28, we turned into the H4-2 and we stopped on the bridge over the Mativuhlungu (which means bad water) River to look out for any animals or birds down in the river, this is a dry riverbed for most of the time, when we caught sight of her. She was sunning herself on the rocks, looking very relaxed. She was beautiful in the morning sunlight.

 

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It is 17 December 2010 when we found ourselves back on the H4-2 and as we drove closer to the bridge, PP jokingly said he wondered if the Princess, as we had named her, could be sitting and waiting for us again. We laughed and said, no ways. As we came onto the bridge we scanned the area and PP said there is Princess and I thought he was teasing. We looked on the rocks and blinked and looked again and there she was on the same rock sunning herself, relaxed as ever.

 

Deja vu.

 

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Now we were completely content with this. It can’t get better then this we thought but we were wrong. Next moment we saw movement in the bushes and we blinked, looked at each other, and blinked again to make sure what we saw was real. Princess had found herself a Beau!

 

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The princess just relaxed, sunning herself, while the Beau walked right towards us and under bridge, and then disappered, into the bush

 

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The Princess looks on as The Beau disappaers

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and finishes grooming herself

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If you going to Kruger book a few nights in CB or LS ;)

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharifa

Before we move on to LS area, I would like to travel west on the S25. This road lies on the southern border of the Park and meanders along the Crocodile River. You can see some unsightly cultivated fields and built up areas across the river but do not let this deter you from driving this road.

 

About 8km from CB there is a turn off to the Hippo Pools. This is worth a visit; you park your vehicle and will be escorted by Daniel, the guide, on foot to the banks of the river. Daniel is great source of information about this place. Here you can watch the hippos as they frolic and fight in the pools in the river. The birdlife is prolific and Daniel will assist with identifying them and pointing them out. There are San Paintings on some rocks and he will answer any questions you may have.

 

Yours Truly with Daniel and you can see the citrus plantation across the river

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The San paintings

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June/July is the mating season for Egyptian geese and you will see them here in great numbers

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It is well worth noting that the Hippo Pool is only open on weekdays and half day on Saturday and closed on Sundays.

The big five and wild dogs are a common sighting on this stretch of the road too. Raptors like Martial Eagles, Lappet Faced and White Backed Vultures are to be found as well.

 

We saw some interesting wild dog behaviour on this road. This is from a VHS video (so poor quality) but you can see the wild dogs out on a hunt and rolling in elephant dung to disguise their own odour.

 

 

The area can also be rewarding for a black rhino sighting (rare in Kruger) – here is a clip from another VHS video.

 

 

Biyamiti Bushveld Camp lies on the S139 and was built in the early 1990’s. Biyamiti means “to build a barricade around dwellings.” This Camp overlooks the Biyamiti River. There no shops and camping sites at Biyamiti. There are just 15 units though it is fenced and children are allowed, unlike the bush camps in the KTP.

 

The S139 is a private road solely for the use of the residents at Biyamiti. This is a game rich road and you are likely to come across elephant families, lions, leopards and especially good to look out for the black rhino. It pays to look out for the rhino middens which you often see on the side of the road. These are their territorial markings and rhinos are sometimes not very far away. You can enjoy undisturbed sightings here.

 

There are game drives and guided walks from Biyamiti. We love doing the guided walks; to be on foot and learn about the fauna and flora from the guides. You miss this when driving and you feel you are a part of nature on walks.

 

We had booked a walk on one holiday. First the guides, there are always two of them, drove us, six tourists, to the destination from where we were to start our walk. Eight adults are the maximum they allow. On the way we saw two male lions sitting under a tree. They got up and moved away as we stopped and the guide said we would make our way to them on foot.

 

We parked and off we went. After walking for what seemed like an eternity. We came to a halt and the guides told us to be very still and make no sudden moves. The lions were ahead of us. We could hear the deep growls, or purring coming from them.

 

As we watched them the guides heard a twig snap and immediately told us there was a black rhino in the vicinity. I heard nothing. It just shows how in tune they are to this environment. We were herded behind a tree and told to be absolutely quiet. Lions growling on the left and black rhino on the right and the adrenaline pumping! The head guide at Biyamiti, Gerry, is highly recommended and if you ever get to stay here, do a morning walk with him or even a night drive – he will teach you plenty.

 

Biyamiti is a gem of a camp! On many occasions we sat on benches in camp, with just the fence between us and watched lions in the riverbed patrolling and roaring. Herds of buffalos and elephants can be seen in the riverbed.

 

These lioen were across the camp fence in the riverbed

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We saw this leopard on a tree just outside the camp gate close to the road.

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One evening as we came back from our game drive a leopard was at the entrance gate to the camp eyeing the bushbuck that are in the camp

 

This lioness was also close to the roadside about a kilometer from the camp

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Like Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bride, Biyamiti is highly recommended for big five sightings. It has the added adavntage of a private road just for residents staying at Biyamiti.

 

We will continue westwards to Berg en Dal next.

 

 

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ice

I remember a stay at Biyamiti, perhaps in 2008 or 2009 - it was a saturday, one day before mother's day. I decided to take my daughter with me to the shop in Croc Bridge to let her buy a little gift for her mum. We left early afternoon so certainly not during "prime time" and yet on this short trip (+ 50-60 km return, depending on which routes you choose) we managed to see all of the big five...at that time a premiere for us

Edited by ice

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Sharifa

It has become our favourite camp in KNP @@ice together with Bateleur Camp in the North. We notched up the Big 5 in a morning travelling the other way from the Camp to Biyamiti Weir on the S114.

 

Have not been there in two years but will be spending 3 nights there in June when we have a long weekend (oops now GW will be asking for a trip report :D )

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