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The Thrill of the Hunt in Klaserie, Timbavati, and Sabi Sands


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FlyTraveler

@@Terry, you were very lucky with the wild dogs, great lion sightings, as well. Enjoyed the writing and the photos again, looking forward towards the next installment.

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On the last morning game drive at Arathusa, suddenly everything we saw became very precious. Trying to memorize every movement, every sound, I stared at everything as long as I could to store picture

After breakfast we were invited to go on walks with our ranger at both Gomo Gomo and Arathusa. On all walks, even in the daytime close to the lodge, the ranger always carried a rifle. Without any sig

Caswell's luck and ours changed. He found this Lesser Bushbaby high in a tree next to the road, the only one we saw on the trip.     Then just 200 meters from camp, lions raced across th

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@FlyTraveler The Klaserie reserve is not fenced with Kruger National Park and it's border with Timbavati is not fenced. While we were staying at Gomo Gomo, we did drive by a fenced-in area. The guide told us that it was a private game farm or something like that.

 

I wanted to see the Giraffe Pride of Timbaviti and my understanding is that sometimes it is seen at Motswari. Hopefully you get to see them. Elephant Plains shares traversing rights with Arathusa. You should have great game drives.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

There's a plot of land, that sits in between Timbavati gate and Klaserie gate, which is still used as a hunting farm. Basically, it is not part of either reserve, so the fence you saw is actually the fence between the "Greater Kruger Area" and the outside (civilized) world.

 

For anyone who's interested to know which reserves are fenced and which are not; I made a PDF for Sun Safaris a while ago which shows all Kruger reserves, the lodges, and the fences. Basically red = fence, green = no fence. You can download it here:

 

http://safaris.marulacamp.com/maps/PDF/Kruger.pdf

 

And if you want to see which lodge has what traverse, these maps of Timbavati and Sabi Sands might help;

(there's no map of Klaserie like this yet, as there's not enough lodges to make it interesting)

 

http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-africa-map/kruger-park-map/timbavati-map/

http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-africa-map/kruger-park-map/sabi-sands-map/

(just hover over the maps)

 

As you will see, EP shares with more than just Arathusa.

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@Terry; you were extremely lucky to see so many predators, including wild dogs! Can I hire you as a lucky charm, to take with me on safari?

:-D

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FlyTraveler

 

@FlyTraveler The Klaserie reserve is not fenced with Kruger National Park and it's border with Timbavati is not fenced. While we were staying at Gomo Gomo, we did drive by a fenced-in area. The guide told us that it was a private game farm or something like that.

 

I wanted to see the Giraffe Pride of Timbaviti and my understanding is that sometimes it is seen at Motswari. Hopefully you get to see them. Elephant Plains shares traversing rights with Arathusa. You should have great game drives.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

There's a plot of land, that sits in between Timbavati gate and Klaserie gate, which is still used as a hunting farm. Basically, it is not part of either reserve, so the fence you saw is actually the fence between the "Greater Kruger Area" and the outside (civilized) world.

 

For anyone who's interested to know which reserves are fenced and which are not; I made a PDF for Sun Safaris a while ago which shows all Kruger reserves, the lodges, and the fences. Basically red = fence, green = no fence. You can download it here:

 

http://safaris.marulacamp.com/maps/PDF/Kruger.pdf

 

And if you want to see which lodge has what traverse, these maps of Timbavati and Sabi Sands might help;

(there's no map of Klaserie like this yet, as there's not enough lodges to make it interesting)

 

http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-africa-map/kruger-park-map/timbavati-map/

http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-africa-map/kruger-park-map/sabi-sands-map/

(just hover over the maps)

 

As you will see, EP shares with more than just Arathusa.

 

Thanks @@Jochen! I find your PDF and the maps of Sun Safaris are very useful.

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wilddog

Lovely TR with lots of great sightings and photographs. Your excitement and delight shines through and reminds us all of the joy of our first safari. It is so special. Thank you so much.

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With pleasure, FT!

 

By the way, I really thought, in light of recent events in Kruger NP, this would get some reactions;

 

This elephant was a young male who seemed huge, but he was still with his herd and under the age of eighteen. He will get kicked out when he reaches sexual maturity. “A lot of people are intimidated by the sheer size of elephants, but it is important not to run from them”, HJ told us. “This is what goes wrong in Kruger, elephants have learned to chase cars because the people drive away from them”.

 

The thing is; that guide is absolutely right. Young males that are still part of a herd will often give you sh**. It's a rebelling-teenager kind of thing. They want to prove themselves and their masculinity somehow. Best is to avoid confrontation of course (if you're a decent distance away, there's no reason for that teenager to play his little game). But failing that; you may want to stand your ground if it's a young bull.

 

If you move away from them, you are reinforcing their behavior. And soon it becomes a game for them to harass every vehicle, and for quite some distance too. At one point there's going to be a situation where someone cannot get away (may be simply because lots of others pulled up behind them, blocking all exits), and then what will happen?

 

With young bulls (like those part of a herd or on the periphery of a herd), f he gives you the evil eye, it's enough to start your engine. Or rev your engine, if that is necessary. He will shake his head showing he's displeased, and move away. Basically you called his bluff and he knows it.

 

Anyway, just writing all this because, since that footage of the little blue car, people say that the right reaction is to flee every time. But by doing so you create a potential problem for other people, somewhere in the future. Of for yourself, if you had the "luck" of running into a young bull that likes to play the "chase the car" game.

 

Let's be clear though; it IS the right reaction if you got too close to a lone, mature bull (and I'd even add; in musth or not). Or if you are to close to a herd with youngsters.

 

Ciao,

 

J.

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@Jochen, Thank you for the additional information on the fencing of the private reserves and for including the links defining the traverse areas for the lodges. All important information for a person to have before selecting a lodge in the Great Kruger National Park and I am pleased to have the links included in this trip report. Also, I appreciate the additional information about the elephants in the park and how to handle close encounters with them.

Thanks to everyone for reading my report. I am glad you are enjoying it.

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Atravelynn

Tremendous predator action, even wild dogs. Did they say how common or uncommon it was to see the dogs there?

@@Jochen, nice map. Saved it.

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Caswell's luck and ours changed. He found this Lesser Bushbaby high in a tree next to the road, the only one we saw on the trip.

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Then just 200 meters from camp, lions raced across the road in front of us. We pulled off the road behind them and came upon the two male lions just seconds after they had taken down a young buffalo and were still trying to subdue it.

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The buffalo gathered his remaining strength for one final wrench to free itself.

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That evening I was concentrating on getting the photos and not allowing the spotlight to burn them out. When Caswell would let the spotlight sag so that the main beam was not on the lions, I would snap a picture. Still it was hard to watch; if there had only been one lion killing the buffalo, it would have been easier. But no, there were two lions, one was working on killing the buffalo and the second lion was not waiting for the deed to be done. That was tougher. When we got home, I found I had to crop the pictures on the bottom edge before I could be comfortable looking at them.

At dinner that night the chef announced we were having roasted bushbabies on the menu. I was about to boycott the meal, but when he went on to include Vervet monkeys and baboons, I realized he just being a comedian.

As we fell to sleep that night, we could hear a lion roaring. I kept picturing in my mind the third lion under a tree alone, injured, unable to hunt, and hungry.

 

The next morning was our last game drive at Gomo Gomo.

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“These sparring buffalos are just practicing,” HJ explained.

"Too bad," I thought, but if it had been real fight, we probably would have not stayed around to watch for they might have turned on the vehicle.

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This was the first Steenbok that wasn’t rapidly disappearing in the bush as soon as we slowed down to stop.

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A Tawny Eagle was sitting on a low branch of a tree with a kill when we came upon it. It flew away in short hops, just staying ahead of us, until we were far enough in front of his kill so he felt safe enough to fly back for it.

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The last sighting at Gomo Gomo was of this male Greater Kudu.

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Then it was time to return to the lodge for breakfast and our transfer to Kambaku, our second lodge. HJ told us over and over again that we were exceedingly lucky in our sightings and we should not expect game drives like this everyday. Even though HJ’s predictions turned out to be true some days, we never tired of climbing up in those cars for the thrill of the hunt. When we left Gomo Gomo, we were wishing we had divided our time between only two lodges and could have stayed longer. Even today it is my husband’s favorite place where we stayed and mine too.

Next up: Who is naughty at Kambaku?

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FlyTraveler

@@Terry, what an action packed night game drive! Although hard to watch, lion - buffalo interaction is perhaps the most sought after event on a safari, an adult buffalo perhaps would put more of a fight.

 

I am curious about your concern for the spotlight not to burn your photos, it seems to me that you have used a flash or have you? I do not use a flash on night drives and even with a camera capable of taking images in a low light and a fast lens. I am having trouble to expose enough the photos despite of the spotlight being right on the animal and rarely get a decent picture. It also looks like the spotter is not using the red light in order not to disturb the animals. Would you share with us the circumstances and your shooting technique during this night safari (using flash or not and if yes, built in or attached flash)?

 

Great day photos, as well, especially the buffalos and the kudu. This Tamron lens consistently delivers good quality sharp images. Gomo Gomo looks like one of the very best affordable lodges in the entire Kruger area. I almost feel sorry that I did not included it in our plans, perhaps instead of Elephant Plains in Sabi Sand...

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HJ told us over and over again that we were exceedingly lucky in our sightings and we should not expect game drives like this everyday.

 

I can assure you he's absolutely telling the truth. You've seen more than most do on a whole safari, even multiple safaris! I mean; you don't get to see dogs on every safari. But more importantly; a lion kill is really rare. Most of us I'm sure have never actually seen one (not talking about devouring a carcass, I'm talking about the kill itself).

 

Seriously; I wish I could hire you as a lucky charm. :D

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About spotlight & night-photography; yes, a flash can solve everything, but I do not like to shoot flash. It never looks natural, and there's always objects (grass, small branches, or even the animal itself) casting ugly shadows. Instead I use following technique;

 

- Use a good dSLR body and crank you ISO up to the highest value that does not give you ugly noise.

- Use a fast and stabilized lens (the Canon 70-200 IS-L is ideal, I'm sure the Nikon counterpart is equally good).

- Shoot at a low F-value to maximize shutter speed, but try not to go too low as it will ruin your DOF.

- Use CWA light metering (center-weighted average), combined with under-exposing with 2 stops. The under-exposing compensates for the burned out spots you would otherwise get with this type of metering, but it also gives you more shutter speed to play with.

- Use a monopod.

- Shoot in burst mode.

 

Depending on how close you are to your subject, you'll have to play around with your F-value. Further shots mean you can go for a lower F-value to get the needed DOF. Sometimes even F2.8 is enough. But you'll need the lower F-value anyway, as a longer distance means less strong light on the subject. Closer shots mean more light on your subject, but you'll need a higher F-value anyway, to get the needed DOF at close range.

 

Ciao,

 

J.

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None of the three lodges where we stayed this trip used a red spotlight. They all were very careful not to use the spotlight on any prey animals or elephants. They would shine it on the ground briefly around an elephant and we could see them somewhat by the reflected light.



The lions are lit only by the spotlight, but not with the spotlight directly on them. We were too far away for a flash. I was shooting as much on automatic as I could. My excitement level was fairly high; I figured the camera could think better than I could under the circumstances. I did crank the ISO up for night shots figuring noise is better than no picture at all. I generally used the sports mode for animals, but I am not sure about these shots. Here is what the camera chose to do with my selected ISO speed and mode:



F-stop f/6.3


Exposure time 1/40 sec.


ISO speed ISO-6400


Focal length 170mm


No flash


Edited by Terry
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FlyTraveler

@@Terry, thanks for posting the camera settings. You've done exceptionally well and were able to capture this amazing sighting!

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@Atravelynn, I went back thru Gomo Gomo's Facebook postings and they found a pack of 20 wild dogs there on the 17th of January. The previous sighting documented before that was in December. I guess it would not pay to plan a safari there to see the wild dogs, but there is always the chance.

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Game Warden

Great nocturnal images. What a thrill to have seen that.

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Kambaku is only about fifteen minutes from Gomo Gomo and much less as a bird flies. We wanted to stay in the same general area for eight days to maximize our chances of seeing the white lions of the Giraffe Pride which hunt in both of the reserves. After Gomo Gomo, Kambaku’s waterhole looked very small and unlikely to attract animals; even so we had several wildlife experiences at this waterhole which were not duplicated elsewhere.

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As part of the check-in procedure the staff at Kambaku warned us about the naughty monkeys they had living near their lodge. The Vervet monkeys will raid any room where the door is left ajar and ransack it looking for food, but will settle for medicine if that’s the best you have to offer. Baboons live along a dry river bed nearby, but wore out their welcome at the lodge a long time ago. Although we saw both the Vervet monkeys and the baboons, they all were very leery of getting close enough for photos.

Our tracker at Kambaku was Eric and our guide was Phiny, which was short for a name that was too difficult for us to say or to remember. Phiny was working at Kambaku’s new lodge, but was filling in here because this lodge was short a ranger at the time. For our first game drive at Kambaku we had beautiful golden light to show off the giraffes.

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In the foreground, a male is on the left, a female on the right, but he was not paying her any attention.

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Then the female giraffe laid her neck across the back of a male. He got a startled look on his face and knew what that meant; it was lucky day.

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He reciprocated by mounting her for a second. I was not anticipating that and didn’t get my camera up before he was down. I was sitting there ruing my lost opportunity, when he mounted her a second time and dropped just as quickly. Phiny explained, “Giraffes have to be fast because of their legs.” I wished them stronger legs.

This mother hyena was walking along the road with her mostly grown baby who was determined to nurse and complaining because the food caterer would not stop. When she stopped to look us over, he lay down on the ground beneath her and kept up his whining until she too lay down and let him suckle.

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Then we went to find Ntombi, a mother leopard, who was up in a tree with both her cubs and her recent kill. As the impala had been reduced to mostly skin and a skull, the leopards would soon leave the tree and Ntombi would have to hunt again.

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That night after dinner as we were heading back to our room, a herd of elephants came in to drink at the Kambaku waterhole and were producing their low-frequency rumbles. Later after we had gone to bed, the elephants were still in the area and we could hear them trumpeting. We saw elephants many times before and after this, but they were always silent creatures.

The next morning when we woke up, we found it had been raining during the night. This was the first rain in the reserve since the previous May. Having great faith the sun always shines in October in Timbavati, we went for our wake-up coffee and then climbed up into the car for our morning game drive. Eric handed us heavy ponchos to wear that covered us down past our knees and with thick blankets underneath covering our laps we were off - in a completely open vehicle. We found a couple of firsts for us - a male waterbuck and a scrub hare and that was the last for the morning.

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Our guides had two different stories about why there is a white circle on the waterbuck’s bun. HJ suggested the circle is a target, and Phiny claimed, “the waterbuck sat on a newly painted toilet seat.” You can choose which explanation you prefer.

 

Then the rain started, light at first, and then it poured. I had my camera out of the case and tucked inside the poncho to keep it dry. It wasn’t long until we noticed the water was dripping through the poncho and on to our cameras and soaking our clothes. We were both wearing sports shoes which had nylon webbing on top to keep the feet cool. The water had to be at least an inch deep on the floor and was washing back and forth, going over and in our shoes. All the other people in the car were wearing leather hiking boots and were much better prepared than we were.

Phiny stopped the car so the tracker who was riding out in front on the hood could come back and sit beside him. The rain was washing all the tracks away so there was nothing for him to track. It wasn’t long before one of the other guests spoke up and requested we go back. With the temperature about 55 degrees F, we were thoroughly chilled and thankful to be quitting, but we didn’t regret going out.

By the late afternoon the rain had stopped and we were warmed up and ready for our afternoon drive. The only pair of shoes I had along, besides my sandals, was still squishing water from the morning drive so I put plastic bags on my feet inside my shoes to keep my socks dry. Eric noticed the plastic bags and he thought they were pretty funny, but he just didn’t understand a farm girl’s rain fashion.

.

We found this lone buffalo which had not kept up with his herd or even the rest of the dagga boys, settling into a mud hole. You really haven’t seen all there is to see about Cape buffalo until you see one go bottom up in a mud hole and then leap for joy. All by himself, he was not going to be able to defend himself against a pride of lions if they found him, but at least he had his three minutes of joy.

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This is a Flying Banana and the next is a Flying Chili Pepper. It must be so for we had a couple of guides that swore to it.

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Those hornbills always look irritated. It is spring time and the females that have mated will soon be sealed inside a hole in a tree until the first egg hatches. Her only view of the outside world will be through a small slit in the entrance for her mate to feed her while she incubates her eggs – if he tends to business. If I was a hornbill, I would be crabby too; I also wouldn’t be writing this report.

Next up: The wildebeast start to gether in a herd. Will there be a crossing?

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michael-ibk

Just love that joyful buffalo. :)

 

I´m tremendously enjoying your report, @@Terry , so please do keep it coming!

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FlyTraveler

This TR continues as great writing and photography. Excellent choice of safari lodges plus some luck have ensured fabulous sightings. I like very much the giraffes (and your wish for stronger legs), leopard, waterbuck and buffalo photos, as well as the hornbills. There is a ranger from Motswari Game Lodge, who is also an excellent photographer - Chad Cocking who publishes photos of Nthombi and her cubs on regular basis on his Facebook page. He also has a blog.

 

I wasn't sure if there were white lions in Timbavati at the moment, but there is a recent photo published on the tripadvisor.com reviews on Kambaku Safari Lodge.

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Excellent story telling in your TR, supplemented by wonderful images.

And such good luck with your sightings - amazing!

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Great stuff! A spectacular lion hunt in the prior post, very well captured. Also lovely Galago shot!

And the latest was also brilliant - congrats on making a cantankerous old dagga boy look very endearing as he rolled in the mud! Lovely leopard in a tree, all limbs hanging down, and nursing hyaenas too.

Edited by Big_Dog
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F-stop f/6.3

Exposure time 1/40 sec.

ISO speed ISO-6400

Focal length 170mm

No flash

 

1/40th at 170mm will normally result in not too many keepers, unless you have very stable hands and everyone sits still in the car.

As a general rule you should aim for 1/40s at 400mm, 1/100s at 100mm, 1/200s at 200mm and so on.

 

You can get your shutter speed up by...

- lowering your F-value (F6.3 at 170mm -> I think you can easily go to F5.6 or even F4)

- using IS. Basically, You change the above rule. With IS 1/40s is OK for 80mm, 1/100 is OK for 200mm, etc.

 

Best regards,

 

Jochen

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I wasn't sure if there were white lions in Timbavati at the moment, but there is a recent photo published on the tripadvisor.com reviews on Kambaku Safari Lodge.

 

There definitely are.

 

They seem to skip between "Giraffe" plot, which is on the right side of the reserve, as you enter the gate (so; opposite that fenced hunting farm), and the plots in Klaserie that lay just behind that hunting farm. So your best shot at seeing them is with Kings Camp, Kambaku, Baterleur or Umlani in Timbavati. Or with Gomo Gomo, Baobab Ridge, Africa On Foot and nThambo in Klaserie.

 

Note that not only the Giraffe pride has white members. Sometimes, the Ross pride (more towards Klaserie) has them too. But in the last year, all white cubs died, unfortunately. To see them is certainly not a given. Most of the time only one or two members of a pride are white, or none at all. I've been to that area 4 years in a row now, and have only seen one lioness, but from far away.

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F-stop f/6.3

Exposure time 1/40 sec.

ISO speed ISO-6400

Focal length 170mm

No flash

 

1/40th at 170mm will normally result in not too many keepers, unless you have very stable hands and everyone sits still in the car.

As a general rule you should aim for 1/40s at 400mm, 1/100s at 100mm, 1/200s at 200mm and so on.

 

You can get your shutter speed up by...

- lowering your F-value (F6.3 at 170mm -> I think you can easily go to F5.6 or even F4)

- using IS. Basically, You change the above rule. With IS 1/40s is OK for 80mm, 1/100 is OK for 200mm, etc.

 

Best regards,

 

Jochen

 

 

I think the Tammy is already at f6.3 once it is at about 170mm; can't get any bigger aperture than that although the table below says f6.3 max aperture only at 200mm. The f3.5 to f4 is only available at wide angles

 

the maximum and minimum apertures reported by the camera at the marked focal lengths.

Focal length 18mm 35mm 50mm 70mm 100mm 200mm 270mm

Max aperture F3.5 F4.2 F4.5 F5.3 F5.6 F6.3 F6.3

 

It's amazing how well Terry did with this modest lens

Edited by johnkok
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Oh OK I didn't know it was a Tamron.

 

@Terry; given your current results, if you'd invest in a 70-200 IS-L F2.8, you'd be the nightshot master! :D

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