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


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4 September

Dylan was our guide today. As we crossed the Crocodile River we spotted a pair of Saddle-billed Storks, and a Giant Kingfisher as well as Green-backed Heron and Grey Heron. Along the H4-2 we encountered a Martial Eagle, and all four species of vulture that were seen previously. A distant White Rhino was also spotted. We carried on, stopping to photograph a Hyena that crossed the road and made its way into the scrub. We passed some babons that were feeding on jackalberries and then stopped for a little vervet that was posing on the top of a dead tree.

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We forked right onto the S130 and some Dwarf Mongoose scampered across the road but disappeared before we could really top to watch them. We turned right onto the S137 towards Duke and then we cam across another White Rhino, but it had only one horn. Dylan thought it might have been removed by rangers for analysis as part of their anti-poaching efforts.

P9044845 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

I asked Dylan if we could return to the Nthandanyathi bird hide, just in case our civet was still around, sadly it wasn't. Looking out over the river, one of the people in the hide pointed out a Boomslang that was curled around some overhanging branches. Yellow-billed Hornbills got up close and personal with us as we looked out of the viewing windows.

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We left and went back up the S28 to join the H4-2 towards Lower Sabie, stopping to view a female Bateleur. We had a full english at the restaurant before moving on to the waterhole, where hippos and crocs could be seen once again. A little baby hippo seemed quite brave as it walked right up to a rather large crocodile. But I guess the croc wouldn't be foolish enough to take on a baby hippo, when the parents were stood close by!

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We took the H4-1 towards Skukuza and soon encountered a long line of cars who were watching a pride of 14 Lions making their way along the river. Views were somewhat obscured as the vegetation along that stretch was quite dense. My only shot of the lions walking came out blurry. As we carried on, four of the pride were resting on some rocks in a better position to view, so we stayed with them for a little while. There was also a fifth lion, that was positioned further down the rocks, but I couldn't get a goods shot of her.

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We took the S79 N'watimhiri causeway along the Sabie River waterfront. A Fish Eagle was busily plucking out a meal. We pulled into the Nkuhlu picnic spot to stretch our legs. This time a pair of Yellow-billed Hornbills posed well. There was also a Yellow-billed Kite soaring over the river.

P9044962conv copy by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We headed back to Lower Sabie for lunch, stopping for a Tawny Eagle. After lunch we headed out on the H10. A Pied Kingfisher perched on a bush overlooking the river whilst a Grey Heron perched precariously on the back of a hippo. We stopped for a group of elephants, including a delightful calf.

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We carried on, arriving at the same tree as the previous day and the Leopard cub was still there! But mum was nowhere to be found. We we able to appreciate the cub this time as he variously repositioned himself and peered out from the fork in the trunk.

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Another Elephant was feeding in the river as we headed back. The cheetah brothers, by the way, had not been seen today as far as we knew so we did not venture up that way. By now it was late afternoon so we headed back to Crocodile Bridge.

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In Marloth Park we took a quick detour when Dylan spotted a large group of Banded Mongoose. The usual assemblage of Kudu, Zebra, Warthogs and so on were hanging around Needles Lodge when we arrived back.

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Tom and Norma had also arrived and were relaxing at the lodge. We enquired how the rest of their diving had gone. There had been a storm and a power cut in Tofo, which also affected the water, which was cut off at Casa do Mar. They had been booked into an ecolodge about five miles away from Tofo, but their diving was still to be done at Tofo. The weather had not improved for the majority of the time they were there and they had only managed one good dive on their last day at a different place, I forget where it was, but the important thing was that they actually saw a distant Humpback Whale on that one good dive. We were very happy for them, despite the gripping off!

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Really enjoying the latest instalment - especially the baby elephant! + great Kudu (?) pictures

Edited by TonyQ
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I am pretty sure the leopard you saw was one of the six I spotted last April - however, back then she still had two cubs so she might have lost one since

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Aw, thanks for the info @@ice. that would be a shame if she lost one cub, but yes, there was just the one cub as far as we know.


Thanks @@TonyQ, yes those are Greater Kudu.


Here is the video from the 4th..


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Should be working now..

5 September


We had a leisurely breakfast and departed with Justin who was doing our transfer through Kruger to Tydon Bush Camp in Umkumbe concession in Sabi Sands. We had paid extra to do the transfer as a game drive, as it is quicker to drive around the outskirts of the park. It was a chilly, overcast morning so it wasn't such a bad thing that we didn't have an open safari vehicle for this transfer. We left a lot later than originally planned and as such we took a more direct route through a less game rich area, entering at Malelane gate, rather than Crocodile Bridge. We took the H3 initially then turned right onto the S118 dirt road towards Gardenia. Our first sighting was of a White Rhino. Then we saw some young Giraffes.


P9055239 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We turned left onto the S114 towards Skukuza. A Pied Kingfisher was hovering whilst another one was trying to subdue a fish that seemed to be way to big for it to contemplate eating. It smacked the fish repeatedly on a branch and proceeded to really struggle to find a way to swallow this huge meal!



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We took a left onto the S23 and I spotted a Klippspringer sitting down on a boulder. A tiny Leopard Tortoise was making its way across the road. We also spotted a Slender Mongoose and Southern White-crowned Shrike. We exited via Paul Kruger Gate and headed on towards Shaw's Gate, entrance to the southern block of Sabi Sand. There was some confusion as to whether we were being met at the gate or whether we would need to be brought to the camp. Eventually it was agreed that Justin would drive us to the camp.


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We arrived at around 12.30 and were shown to our permanent tent. Tydon Bush camp is a small camp comprising of three twin/double en-suite tents, which were very comfortable and even had air con that doubled as heaters, proper loos and showers, though Natalie reported that there was no hot water early morning and late evening. Since I showered during the mid day break that wasn't a problem for me. There is a small seating area/deck outside and a comfortable Lapa where breakfast and lunch is served. There is an intimate Boma where foldaway tables (undressed) are used to eat off around the fire for dinner.


It is located in Umkumbe concession right next to the privately owned Ingwe lodge and around the corner from Umkumbe lodge. It overlooks a “predator channel”, not sure if this is part of an old railway line or not. It is also surrounded by scrub so there is not a view as such. The owners of the lodge rented the plot to Tydon and they have agreement to traverse in Umkumbe concession along with Umkumbe Lodge.


We were allowed to wander the grounds of Ingwe Lodge as the owners were not at home. There was a lot of game around that Ingwe lodge at times, initially we saw a large herd of Buffalo while waiting for our game drive that afternoon.



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We met Debbie, who would be our guide and camp manager and two other guests, Hilary and Michelle from the US on their first safari. They had a wonderful first drive this morning, seeing two leopards in a Jackalberry treee. One, a young male, and another much larger male called Hermie. They believed that the younger male had made a kill, which Hermie had usurped and taken into the tree. Hyenas had also been sniffing around the base of the tree, looking for scraps. Debbie felt confident that they would still be there when we went out later that afternoon, but for me the wait was agonising!! A delicious lunch was served at 2 pm and then we waited, and waited, and waited... :angry:

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WARNING!! If you are fed up of all the gratuitous leopard shots that have been plaguing trip reports lately, you might want to skip this post... ;)


At 4PM we were on our way! :D The leopards were still there! We arrived at the Jackalberry tree and Hermie, the big male was sitting high up next to the carcass.


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Another leopard, which Debbie told us was the younger male, was on a large horizontal branch below Hermie, he had managed to scavenge some of the spoils of the kill. As we watched, he walked down the thick trunk and dropped to the floor, picking up some more entrails or something before returning to the tree branches.


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:D :D :D

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Hermie got up and started to growl, staring intently at the nearby bushes. The cause of his concern became clear as a Hyena slunk into view.


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The younger leopard came down to the base of the tree.


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and grimaced:


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Then returned to the tree:


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And also growled at something... the hyena or Hermie perhaps?


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Walked up the tree:


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Turned and settled down:


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and seemed to be looking up towards where Hermie was sat:


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Before watching us:


P9055421 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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And then, Debbie and Gavin our guides realised that there was someone else watching us from the long grass nearby! A third Leopard!!!


P9055426 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Watching Hermie:


P9055428 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


As Debbie and Gavin studied the three leopards they realised that they had got the story wrong. You may have noticed an absence of something in the first younger leopard. Yes, this was a female, and the third one sitting away from the tree was the male that they had seen with Hermie in the morning. So the assumption is that Hermie was courting this female, which is why he was okay with her feeding from his kill. The young male being the cat that had made the kill, which Hermie stole. Hence why leopard no. 3 is staring daggers at Hermie!!


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Another shot of the Female:


P9055440 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Hermie asleep:


P9055445 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Hermie keeping an eye out for scavenging hyenas & rival leopards..


P9055469 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Can't help posting shots of the female:


P9055480 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Said scavenging hyenas were still sniffing about:


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The third leopard slunk off and Hermie and the female seemed to be settled down for a nap so we headed off for a while, with the intention of coming back after sundowners to see if there was any further action.


We came across a herd of Buffalo, some were sparring.


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After having sundowners, we returned to the leopards, but they were still sleeping. We waited for a while, until our necks were really stiff from watching but there was no further activity, so we eventually left them and returned to camp.

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I went to our tent to use the bathroom. The en-suite shower and loo is divided by a canvas partition. Then as you enter there is a wooden screen dividing the toilet from the shower and sink. There is a fairly narrow space between the screen and that side of the tent. It was quite dark in the loo, there is an electric lamp, but the wooden screen blocks out a fair amount of this light. I walked straight in and then turned to sit down, as I did so, I made the mistake of looking up and on the canvas wall right at the narrowest point where the screen was, the most hideous hairy beast of a spider that I have ever had the misfortune of meeting stared straight back at me!! I think I must have uttered a strangled "OH!" and Natalie instantly realised something was gravely wrong! I quickly finished my business and braced myself to make a hurried exit from the tent, squeezing between the screen and the canvas wall. " I'm sorry but I'm NOT dealing with that! :o " I declared as left the tent. Natalie took a look and likewise exited the tent at a rapid pace!


Soon a small crowd was gathered, as we commissioned Gavin to extract the demon arachnid from our quarters. He employed that tried and tested glass and paper technique, but this thing needed some coaxing to get all of it's tea-plate sized legs to fit into the somewhat inadequate pint pot. "Should have brought a bigger glass," I murmured. I am afraid I did not take any record shots for fear of its hideous countenance cracking the glass in my lens. You will have to just take my word when I say that this spider was the stuff nightmares are made of. This was, according to Gavin, a Rain Spider. We prayed for dry weather for the rest of our trip!


We ate dinner in the boma, no bush babies or fruit bats kept us company here, I missed them! Gavin proved to be difficult company, coming across as he did as a very abrasive and chauvinistic character. I understand this is his way of breaking the ice, but the last thing a client wants to hear is someone complaining about how many emails he's got to deal with and how aggravating your tour operator was to deal with! Another thing that really annoyed me was that, although we had booked all drives for our time here to give us the best chance of covering ground to find leopard, I was effectively emotionally blackmailed (by both the guides and the other guests) into doing a walk the next morning. Basically, they could only split the group 2 and 4 (there were two Italians with us as well) but that would mean Debbie would do the drive and another guide would do the walk, but it was clear that the Americans really wanted Debbie to walk with them and then Natalie agreed to the walk, which left just me. So they couldn't have me do a drive and everyone else walking. I do like walking, but after Mana Pools I felt that this would be a bit of a tame experience, and I would have much preferred to do a drive. I finally acquiesced on agreement that we would at least first revisit the tree where the leopards were, in case they were still there.

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Video of the leopards:


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You can never have too many leopards!

A brilliant sequence of shots + explanation of what was going on. They were certainly worth the anticipation.

Really good sparring buffalo as well

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The latest instalment is very enjoyable as the story of your safari unfolds - from a mouse to whales, civets and bushbabies, what variety in this TR. I'm sure there could never be too many gratuitous leopard photos!


Some great warthog photos earlier and the civet photos are remarkable, I am a tad envious of this sighting and the clear photos!

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Fantastic leopard sightings :)

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Thanks all!


6th September


We met Stephen, who used to manage Elephant Plains camp. He now works as a freelance guide, today he would be leading our walking safari. We left at 06.30, first driving to the Jackalberry tree, but alas, the leopards had all moved on and we saw no sign of them. We carried on to a spot where we could start our walk. Our first sighting was a giraffe, browsing. Then Stephen stopped to pick up a well rounded piece of dung, asking if anyone knew what had crafted it into a hollow sphere. The answer was obvious, A dung beetle! but he proceeded to show us that the dung, by the texture and content was probably rhino and the dung beetle larvae had not met a happy end as a honey badger had likely ripped it open, there were claw marks to indicate this on the outside of the ball.


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As we carried on, we surprised a Whahlberg's Eagle who took to the air in indignation. We encountered Bushbuck, Kudu and Zebra as we carried on. Burchell's Coucal and Black-headed Oriole were amongst the avian delights, but as is usual on these sort of walks, the focus was more on the mammals and bush signs than the birds.


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Stephen spotted a bull White Rhino and calf, this was the same odd couple that @@COSMIC RHINO saw on his trip here. The calf's mother had been killed by poachers and the young bull has since adopted him. We took a wide arc to slowly creep closer to these magnificent beasts. As we began to get closer, I managed to snap off a few frames of the calf, but the young bull was obscured by a stand of thorn scrub. Then all of a sudden a mature bull charged the two rhino from some nearby bushes and Stephen advised us to head to nearby tree, just in case the rhino's charge brought him this way. The Italians and Americans legged it, Michelle going to the wrong tree! Whist Natalie and I brought up the rear. Stephen then directed us to make for a termite mound further away, which we duly did, from there we could see the rhinos, but Stephen was keen to keep us moving away from the area.


P9065601 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


As we carried on back towards the vehicle we didn't spot anything else of note, however, as we drove back we again encountered the grumpy bull rhino who was crossing the road. We stopped to watch him for a while and then headed back to the lodge for breakfast.


P9065619 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


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We arrived back at 09.30 and had breakfast. Then we were left to our own devices for a few hours. The Americans had been complaining about some noisy toads that kept them up at night, we thought they were coming from the pool at Ingwe lodge so Debbie called the owners and we then mounted a rescue mission. There were around half a dozen of these toads hiding in the filter of the pool. She scooped them all up into a bucket along with as much toad spawn as she could remove from the pool and we drove to the nearby waterhole to release them into the wild. I'm sure the local herons were delighted!


We had lunch at 14.00 then it wasn't too long to wait before we left for our drive at 16.00. Jason was out looking for leopard with his tracker and Debbie kept in contact with him. However, we did not have a tracker with us as Gavin was thankfully at the other lodge managing a bigger group and Stephen had only been there to help with the walk. Anyone who wanted to was allowed to sit in the tracker seat and Debbie obliged by giving them a short "Ferrari safari". We first stopped to watch some Kudu grazing in the reeds by the river and then we spend a good amount of time watching a nice herd of Elephants that had come down to drink. A tiny baby proved to be very endearing as it played in the water.


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We then carried on and spotted a party of seven Dwarf Mongoose playing with each other.


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We stopped for sundowners at a dried up mud wallow, there were lots of tiny little frogs hiding in the clod (I had my hands full with a savannah and some snacks so didn't take any pics of them, sorry!).


P9065758 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Then after it got dark we began spotlighting for crepuscular and nocturnal wildlife:


P9065765 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


As we approached the camp we spotted a White-tailed Mongoose, it looked a bit scruffy!


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We arrived back in camp around 19.00 and had a nice meal in the boma before retiring to our tents. Thankfully no more spiders had taken up residence..

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Here is the video, its quite brief today!:


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