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Having a Whale of a time in Zavora, Tofo, Kruger and Sabi Sand


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31 August

Today we had a full day drive booked in Kruger. Our guide, Dylan, arrived at 05.30 to pick us up. We were then on our way and stopped elsewhere in Marloth Park to pick up some other guests, a local South African contingent were amongst the other guests.


As we crossed the Crocodile river we spotted a Giant Kingfisher. Arriving in Crocodile Bridge rest camp, Dylan went to get the permits sorted out whilst we had a look around, and got a quick cup of coffee. I immediately spotted one of the birds that I had really hoped to see better, Purple Crested Turacos. I tried to take some photos, but the weather was somewhat grey to start with and the birds were high in a tree. Luckily I got some half decent pictures later in the trip. The spectacular Trumpeter Hornbills were also present in a tree just near the shop and I managed to get a few shots of these prehistoric-looking birds before we left.

P8313102 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

We drove along the H4-2 Tar road towards Lower Sabie. First we encountered some beautiful baby giraffes, browsing on the vegetation. In addition to the copious Impala and few groups of warthogs we encountered a lone Elephant bull.

P8313116 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313128 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

I had made Dylan aware that I had a keen interest in birds and he was delighted to hear this as he was a budding birder as well. So he enthusiastically pointed out the birds that we saw, and did his best to find me good birds during the days that he guided us. We spotted a streaked phase Tawny Eagle high in the top of a tree.

P8313143 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Then as we continued on, we began to encounter several species of vulture, White-backed, hooded, Lappet-faced and white-headed gathering in some scrub. It seemed clear that lions had killed something out of sight of the road, and, sure enough, as I was photographing the vultures I saw a lioness pop her head up briefly before she disappeared into a ditch.

P8313151 White-backed Vulture by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313152 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313159 Hooded Vulture by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313170 White-backed Vulture by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313181 White-backed Vulture by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313175 White-headed Vulture by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



We carried on towards Lower Sabie and sopped for a family of warthogs and a zebra. Then we spotted an African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene) trying to wheedle something out of a hole in a tree. It spent a fair amount of time working on whatever it was in the hole, but I don't think it managed to prise whatever it was out of its hiding place because it eventually seemed to give up.


P8313186 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313191 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313192 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313228 Gymnogene by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Thanks @@ZaminOz Here's a few pics from while we were having breakfast:


P8313245 Impala Lily by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313248 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313255 Cape Glossy Starling by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313272 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We left Lower Sabie and headed out along the H4-2 towards Skukuza, first we spotted an African Fish Eagle resting in a tree and then stopping at the waterhole where hippos could be seen fighting. Yellow-billed storks were lined up against the back edge of the waterhole, and Giraffe and zebra had come down to drink. Nile Crocodiles sunned themselves on the banks. I should point out at this stage that Natalie has a BIG thing for hippos and was delighted to see so many at this waterhole. She asked one of the South African guys if he wouldn't mind emailing her a photograph of the duelling hippos.


P8313296 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313307 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


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We carried on, coming across a magnificent Kudu bull, small troops of Vervet Monkeys and Baboons, the latter had a few little babies with them, one was riding on mum's back like a little jockey. We took the S79 N'watimhiri causeway along the Sabie River waterfront, four dagga boys were hanging out and a few elephant could be seen as well. We pulled into the Nkuhlu picnic spot, seeing a male Bushbuck on the way in and stretched our legs. One of the South Africans bought us all ice cream, which was very generous of her. Several species of sunbirds including Collared, Purple-banded and White-bellied, were feeding on the flowering bushes.

P8313339 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P8313427 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P8313412 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


As we headed back towards Lower Sabie on the H4-1 tar road, we encountered a beautiful young Nyala more baboons and an adult Giraffe. An Elephant was feeding by the roadside and we spotted a Goliath Heron fishing in the river. A whole herd of Kudu were also looking to drink from the river and a stunning Nyala bull was also feeding near the road. A big herd of elephants were drinking as we crossed the causeway.

P8313434 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P8313497 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We stopped off again at Lower Sabie, we were advised just to get a snack, but a Danish couple who were with our group decided to order from the restaurant, causing a bit of a delay. When we all finally gathered back at the vehicle, Natalie seemed to have acquired a little plush hippo, wearing dungarees. It appeared that one of our friendly South Africans, whom Natalie had approached for a photograph of the duelling hippos, had bought her a little gift.. and for the remainder of the drive her "Hippo Hero" as we dubbed him kept trying to invite her to come over to their lodge for drinks later on.. hmmmm....!! :huh:

Well of course we had to stop and look at the hippos again, and this time there was some entertainment with a Hamerkop who had a precarious perch on top of a hippo's head! As the hippo submerged the hamerkop took off and landed on another member of the pod.

P8313504 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313512 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313514 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313519 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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A large herd of buffalo could be seen some distance away on the other side of the Sabie River. Then we encountered three White Rhino, two females and a calf. Views were somewhat obscured by the thick scrub. A Saddle-billed Stork was stood on one leg resting by the river. At a waterhole, a large Water Monitor Lizard was lying on the trunk of a tree and an African Spoonbill was fishing as a Nile Crocodile made it's way into the water. We headed off along the H4-2 where we saw more Zebra, Brown Snake-eagle and a Marabou Stork.

P8313530 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P8313599 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313614 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Then we forked left onto the S130 dirt road, seeing more zebra and impalas, but nothing new. We left the park around 16.00 ish and dropped the rest of the group off at their lodge before returning to Needles.


P8313621 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


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P8313644 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


P8313646 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


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We were treated to the same entertainment as the previous night, bouncing bush babies and fluttering fruit bats!

P8313726 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313737 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P8313738 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Here's a video of the herd of zebbies that came to eat at Needles:



Waiting for another video to upload before continuing the report :)

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1 September

As we waited for our ride, Dennis was having a whale of a time winding Natalie up that her “Hippo Hero” telling her that he had booked onto our drive at the last minute! We had a different guide today, called Korbus, who sadly turned out to be not as enthusiastic as Dylan and didn't really have an interest in the birds. We had the Danish couple with us, but thankfully “Hippo Hero” was nowhere to be seen. Before we left Marloth Park we had already seen Wildebeest and Impala. We took the H4-2 again towards Lower Sabie and a Slender Mongoose ran across the road but was gone before I could get onto it. Then we spotted a lion, who was dead to the world with all four paws pointed to the sky. He slowly flopped onto his let side and then gradually roused himself from his slumber. As he stiffly got to his feet you could tell that he had some tales to tell as he limped off into deeper cover.

P9013761 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013771 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

We forked off the main road onto the S82 loop. I called a halt to the vehicle when I spotted a Pearl Spotted Owlet perched on a bush. Two Elephant bulls, one with an impressive pair of tusks were feeding, the great cracks of breaking branches could be easily heard as we watched. A Pale phase Whahlberg's Eagle were also sighted as we continued on, along with three Dwarf Mongoose who were foraging along the roadside.

P9013781 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013798 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9013809 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Breakfast was served at the picnic area within the Lower Sabie rest camp and consisted of a picnic of sandwiches, fruit, muffins, eggs, yoghurt and juice.

P9013837 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013842 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Afterwards we took the H4-1 towards Skukuza, stopping to scan the waterhole, where a few giraffe and a pod of hippos could be seen on the bank. A large Water Monitor was scenting the air with his tongue on the nearside bank. We drove the S79 to the picnic spot and stretched our legs for a bit. A bushbuck was also seen.

P9013848 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013859 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

As we returned, always delightful to see, a herd of sixty or so elephants decided to hold us up by crossing the road both ahead and behind us. We sat and watched the show as groups of mothers, sub adults and calves passed us on the road. Some were really tiny!

P9013863 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Then, we were informed of a Lioness and cubs so we carried on. The Lioness could barely be seen with a couple of the cubs, as they were in thick cover; but one cub remained, feeding on a warthog. We stayed with him until he decided he'd had enough and went back to the comfort of mum and his siblings.

P9013867 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013868 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013871 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9013886 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We took the H12 to the end of the causeway, stopping to view hippos and then we turned around and came back. As we were heading back to Lower Sabie we were surprised by a bull Elephant in musth who mock charged us! It happened so quickly that I didn't get one shot off!

A troop of baboons were also entertaining..

P9013892 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013903 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Then we almost drove right past another lion, who was sleeping on the far bank of the river, next to a fence which marked an exclusion zone, where big game has been excluded from browsing as part of the management of the park. We watched the lion get up and walk to a more shady spot, where he flopped down for a nap.

On we drove to the waterhole near Lower Sabie rest camp. We stopped to photograph the hippos which were quite active around the banks and a Woolly Necked Stork was drying it's wings and a White-crowned Plover was being sniffed at by a hippo.

P9013927 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9013927 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013938 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013944 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013953 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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A Water Monitor, had clearly bitten off more than he could chew by trying to eat a turtle, without, it appeared, much success.

P9013958 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9013962 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9013974 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

We returned to Lower Sabie for a late lunch. I had a tasty chicken burger and chips in preparation for our sunset drive and then we drove straight back along the H4-2 to Crocodile Bridge.

P9013993 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9013984 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We were late leaving for the sunset drive because a group of seven guests they were expecting hadn't shown up. As we waited I spotted a Scarlet-Chested Sunbird and some Vervet Monkeys. We took a dirt track where other vehicles are not allowed to go and encountered more zebra and giraffe as we drove out. One of the guests spotted a retreating Black-backed Jackal that sadly disappeared over the horizon before I could get a shot of it.

P9014020 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9014031 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

We dipped down to a ford in a stream and I called a halt again by declaring that a White Rhino was just leaving, clambering up the side of the bank. We lost sight of this rhino temporarily but it reappeared briefly and appeared to be heading towards us. Sadly it turned and went into the bushes instead.

But then soon afterwards we found another White Rhino in a better position, that posed well, kicking up dust in the setting sun.

P9014051 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9014064 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9014071 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9014077 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Then, I could barely make out what looked like a fuzzy black lollipop crossing the track up ahead of us. As my mind tried to make sense of what I had seen in the fading light, we approached close enough to see, it was a group of three Ostriches! A male and two females.

The sun sank lower, providing some nice opportunities to photograph giraffes silhouetted against the amber orb.

P9014102 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9014104 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9014105 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We alighted from the vehicle to enjoy the sunset and zebbies and Wildebeest crossed the track behind us. I prepared my camera ready for the opportunities that the spotlit drive might bring. It was initially quiet for about the first hour after sundown, but then animals began to show themselves. First we stopped for the occasional bush baby. Okay so not everyone will have the opportunity to see these beauties as close as we did every night at Needles, so we were patient. I always enjoy seeing lagomorphs, so the three Scrub Hares that put in an appearance were delightful.

P9014109 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Then, something else that was nice for us, a Large Spotted Genet, close enough to get a few record shots, but it wasn't keen to stick around. Finally, towards the end of the drive, an impressive lion was warming himself on the tar road. Another Sunset drive vehicle was there when we arrived, but we were given some time alone with this king of beasts before we had to return to the rest camp. As we continued on, elephants were also encountered.

P9014110 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9014113 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9014119 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9014128 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

The night life carried on at Needles as the show of Bush Babies and bats was well underway. The other guests had already finished their mains and were tucking into dessert. We were ready for our dinner when it arrived, that was for sure!

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@@kittykat23uk great report so far. Loving the Kruger gamedrives and all the birds.


I think the bird that is being sniffed by hippos is an African Wattled Lapwing - see, I was paying attention :D

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Thanks! More goodies to come. The lapwing is white crowned, it has the grey neck and head and white belly that distinguish it from your African wattled. :)

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You're correct - ignore me, I'm still a newbie birder :)

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No problem :)


2 September

We had quite a group today, three Americans staying at Needles Lodge with us, who were doing a short safari (first timers by the look of them, one of them Mark, was particularly keen to see a large male lion) and the mature, yet full of young love for each other, Danish couple. Dylan was back as our guide for the day. On our way in we had a Shikra and Waterbuck and a White-bellied Sunbird posed well for photos as we waited for the permits to be sorted and got a hot drink. We took the S28 dirt road from Crocodile Bridge, Giraffes were again in evidence, as were a troop of baboons and a small gathering of wildebeest. We also encountered a few elephants, small groups of Kudu and the ubiquitous Impala of course.

P9024149 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9024210 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We stopped in at the Nthandanyathi bird hide and Dylan pointed out one of the most unexpected sightings of the trip. A beautiful African Civet could be seen by peering through the gaps in the wooden screens. "She who shall not be named"and @@Sangeeta will remember how excited I was to see civets as we drove back to our campsites at night in Mana Pools, but here was one in broad daylight! It seemed to have been recuperating from a small injury to its neck. As we watched, it got up and foraged for some breakfast before wandering away from the bird hide. It reappeared on the opposite bank of the river, which the viewing hide overlooks.

P9024218 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9024231conv26 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Burchell's Starling, Crested Barbet and Brown-headed Parrot were also seen at the bird hide.

P9024236 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P9024249 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

P9024254 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Edited by kittykat23uk
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How wonderful to get such super images of the civet.................in daylight. Lots of great images, particularly the last one of the crested Barbet on the ground. Seeing rhino again must make you question will he/she be around in the next few months etc. They are more special than ever.

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I can't tell you how made up I was to see the civet! I was on a big high for the rest of the morning! :D

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