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

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Another great leopard interaction! I wonder if someone left the car and stepped on the ground at this moment would that person be killed by the leopard as the ranger said (not that we should try doing this). :)


I also like the photo of the elephants at the lodge and the strange zebra, did you ask the ranger about the stripes issue?

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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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Lovely leopard sightings @@Terry, especially the second one. So pleased the light improved for you.

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I wonder if someone left the car and stepped on the ground at this moment would that person be killed by the leopard as the ranger said. :)

@@FlyTraveler - I think all of our rangers told us if we got out of the car we would be killed before we hit the ground. It may have been just to scare us, of course. I for one did not want to test the theory. We talked to a guide at Kambaku who said he had a guest who jumped out of the car at a leopard sighting and lived to tell of it. The guide noticed when he was still on the back side of car and ordered him back in. He then just drove the guest back to the lodge and told him to get out. Said that was the most afraid he had ever been as a guide. He was shaking so bad.


I did not ask the guide about the zebra strips. Don't think I noticed it on the drive. I just was concentrating too much of getting a picture of the first one we saw that wasn't half hidden in the brush.


@@Jochen @@FlyTraveler @Soukous Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. Makes it all worth the aggravation. Last night when I had the post all ready to submit, my computer crashed. I did it all over the second time. Of course, the version that got away was much better! The night before that, I had something similar happen. I was ready to post and accidently hit the cancel button or something. It was gone. So now I have re-entered my entry two nights in a row.

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@@Terry - yes it is pretty nasty when you loose you writings due to technical issues. It is a good idea to write the text on Notepad or MS Word and save it once in a while, so if your computer crashes, you would not loose the entire text. In any case the installment is very enjoyable, thanks for the effort to re-write it.

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Superb trip report, Terry. I am really loving your writing style.

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Ah, springtime in Greater Kruger National Park! After the rains, Sabi Sands was turning green, the grass was growing, the leaves were coming out on the trees and white and pink ground lilies were in bloom. It was a welcome change from all the brown of Klaserie and Timbavati. This picture is all about the many shades of green rather then the two little bitty African Fish Eagles sitting in a tree.




This African Hoopoe has his crest raised showing he is feeling some excitement. He gets his name from his call ‘Hoop-hoop-hoop’.



Magpie Shrike



Then we looked in at Mvula, the leopard, again. He was sleeping along the stream in his ravine – what else would a leopard with plenty to eat do? But he woke up to check us out when we arrived. The size of his neck is just amazing.



The two female lions of the Styx pride were still in the bush and we caught them at thievery. Adult lions rarely climb trees, except in some Tanzanian parks and Ugandan parks; but if it is jerky they want, they can do it in Sabi Sands also.





Fresh large claw marks on a tree trunk told of a cheated leopard and also explained why the lions were walking around carrying chunks of dried meat. One of them is the "Tree Climbing Lion of Sabi Sands".









The lions settled down and considered taking a nap, but then got side tracked with entertaining us with grooming, yawning, and grimaces.











Half the time it looked like they were telling jokes and probably laughing at us.





One of the lions insisted it was time to play, while the other one just wanted to go “Flat Cat.”





On the night drive, we found three male nyalas which sure don’t look at all like the female nyalas, only I didn’t know that then. I thought the smaller lighter male nyala was the female and the female nyalas of a previous sighting were the bushbucks.







With Chris manning the spotlight after dark, we managed to see a Genet; at least that is what Roy told me we saw. All I saw was a long, banded tail disappearing into the bush.


For the new guests in the vehicle, we went back to the tree with the Hammerkop’s nest and found Mvula was still along the stream.



I thought my husband was done telling people that we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, but he apparently told a staff member at Arathusa. When we got back from the evening game drive, we found our rooms all decorated, the bed was covered with red Bougainville leaves arranged in a shape of a heart in the center.



There were lighted tea candles marking a pathway to the bathroom where a hot bubble bath was drawn and sprinkled with the red leaves and beside tub was a wine bucket with two bottles of wine.





It was all lovely, a wonderful surprise, very thoughtful, very romantic, but it was all lost on us. We had taken our showers during the midday break and washed our clothes. Now we had 45 minutes to get to dinner so that our ranger didn’t come looking for us. We were leaving the next day and we had to pack.


We quickly put out the candles so we wouldn’t burn the place down, then took the bed cover outside and shook off the leaves. We tried to get a bottle of wine open to make it look like we appreciated something, but being life-long teetotalers it was the first time we were faced with such a task without a corkscrew and we weren’t able to figure it out. We felt so unappreciative, but we had things to do.


Next up: Is there anything left to see on the 24th game drive?

Edited by Terry
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lovely nyala @@Terry

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Thank you for re-writing, from our point of view it as worth your effort :)

Amazing leopard interactions (mother - son) - strange to keep losing the kill

Beautiful male leopard and you show his eyes really well

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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 pictures in my mind as well as on my camera.


Our first sighting was of a giraffe in the early morning light which gave a soft blue haze on the bush in the background – maybe the Sabi Sand version of the morning light of Mana Pools.




Mvula the large male leopard was resting on top of a ridge far away from his ravine. He had finished eating his waterbuck and it was time for him to kill again.





A small breeding herd of elephants crossed the road in front of us, our first and our last on a game drive at Arathusa.


This baby elephant apparently was going too slowly for her Auntie. She got a nudge to get going.



Our last baby elephant.



A pair of jackals had a den near an old termite mound on the other side of a meadow which we drove by regularly. They had pups that we could see playing outside of the den some days, but to keep from disturbing them Roy never stopped. We just sort of rolled on by as he pointed the jackals out. That last drive he stopped just long enough for this one good picture of the mother Side-stripped jackal. (He probably heard me begging him).



Roy took us to see a female leopard up a tree with the remains of a small kill with her. This was the one leopard he didn’t name so she could be the “Truly-Wild-One”. Here she is doing the classic “Leopard in a tree, Four paws over the limb” pose.



Let’s try that again – face the other direction this time. Oh, she still didn’t get it right!




At first I was concerned that she was the mother leopard Thandi and something had happened to her son. I had to put the pictures of the two females side by side and compared noses to make sure that they are two unique leopards. This Truly Wild One has more pink on her nose than Thandi.



She was very restless and climbed around the tree, trying out several spots to rest.






A dried haunch was about all that was left of her kill so she was probably getting hungry.



She came down and walked through the grass and then climbed up on top of a termite mound.



Then we could see a wound on the back of one of her legs.




She kept on going and disappeared into the bush.



We got one last look at one of the female lion of the Styx pride as she slept along side the road. Where her sister was, she wouldn’t tell.

The last lion.



I don’t think we saw the thousand impalas the first guide promised us, but with this one we might have reached the two hundred mark.

The last impala



The last Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill.



The last steenbok.


Our Tracker Chris and Guide Roy are smiling because Chris had been wearing an outer pair of pants which he was in the process of removing when I asked if they would pose for a picture. So they did with Chris’s outer pair of pants down around his ankles. I promised not to take picture of that, but you can imagine it.



Our hunt for animals on this safari was over. We truly found our 24th drive was exciting as the first; the fun and the thrill of the hunt had not diminished, not one iota. When we climbed down from the car for the last time, we could have started all over again and done another 24. We didn’t see cheetahs or the white lions, but if we had scheduled our vacation a week later we would have seen them both for it was just a matter of days before those animals returned to the reserves we visited.


Sightings of the cats at Sabi Sands are spectacular because the lions and the leopards we watched were the grandchildren and great-grand children of the first cats who became acclimated to the vehicles. They were very comfortable that nothing bad would happen to them when a vehicle was near. We were in awe to have the opportunity to watch them go about their business unconcerned at our presence.


Only while watching the wild dogs consume the impala at Gomo Gomo did we share a sighting with another vehicle. If we left a viewing area, rather than the animal leaving us to go about it business, it was usually after thirty to forty minutes. I prefer it that way rather than having to Photoshop cars out from my photographs or to experience the throngs of vehicles I read about elsewhere. There is rarely more than one best parking spot at a sighting in the thick brush and we always had it.


Yes, we were lucky with our sightings, although the weather worked against us at Kambaku. Our guides spotted cats from the roads eight times. Rangers following tracks through the bush found only one cat, a leopard, at Gomo Gomo. The majority of the sightings occurred because the rangers shared information over their radios.


After breakfast our transfer took us to the airport at Hoedspruit and we flew to Cape Town for two nights on Boulders Beach at Simon’s Town to see the penguins.




We stayed right on the beach at the Boulders Beach Lodge which we chose for the location and the restaurant. There really was no other convenient alternative for viewing the African penguins which we had come to see without having a car. The lodge itself was an old wooden structure and quite weather beaten from the wind and the salt water. The beds were wonderful, as were the down comforters and the pillows. The office and the restaurant closed in the late afternoon that first night and as far as we knew we were the only people staying there. We had everything we needed, except the telephone we hadn’t appreciated at Arathusa or at least an air horn to make us feel safe. The door looked a little weak and the wind blew in rain underneath it through a crack where it didn’t fit tightly against the door jam.


The next day alternated between showers and sunshine. The office and the restaurant reopened so we felt a little less isolated. We found the penguins right in front of the lodge.



In October their business is to molt and breed. Several penguins were high up the side of the cliff hiding under the bushes while waiting for their new feathers to grow in.



Others were swimming around in the shallow water near shore trying out their feathers to see if they had regained enough to swim.




Most were just standing in little groups in the heat of the sun down on the sandy beach.




This year’s chicks were as large as the adults, but were still wearing their “baby blues”.




Listening to the penguin braying, it was easy to see why they were known as Jackass penguins for many years. This one watched the "Happy Feet" penguin movie and decided he could dance also.


Hartlaub's Gull


Egyptian Geese





The Dassies or Rock Hyrax, if you prefer. The nearest living relative of the elephant - which is rather hard to believe.



The Hadeda Ibis



Another of Africa's beautiful Starlings - The Redwing.



Karoo Prinia





Then it was back on the plane for the trip home and back to the start of winter. As I wrote on Facebook shortly after we walked in the door Friday evening. “We are home safe and sound! Luggage arrived with us. Dog is fine. House is fine. Bed looks good! It took four flights and thirty-six hours to get here. I am so tired of going through security and showing the passports, and worrying about losing boarding passes that I am just thankful to be home.”

The next day we unloaded the pictures and the videos stored on our cameras and started reliving all the wondrous moments we shared with the animals and birds in Africa. We looked at each other and said, “Let’s go to Africa again!” And so we shall.

Edited by Terry
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@@Terry - this is one of the most enjoyable TR and photos, I will miss your installments. I also like the attention to the detail both in your writing and photography.


"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 pictures in my mind as well as on my camera." - I now this feeling very well - last game drive, trying to see as much as possible, shooting photos indiscriminately... My wife said "no matter how many pictures you take, you can not take home the savannah"...


Fabulous last game drive (for this trip of yours), indeed. I love the leopard photos (both leopards), the elephants and the giraffe, the Yellow Billed Hornbill. It seems that last game drives are usually productive, we wanted to see the Panorama Route (Blyde River Canyon, God's Window etc.) on our way back from Kruger to Johannesburg in this coming May, but this would mean to leave Sabi Sand early in the morning and to miss the last game drive. Since it is not a noble thing to miss a game drive, we gave up the Panorama Route and will attempt to see Blyde River Canyon from the air on a microlight flight from Hoedspruit.


What a great idea to stay at Boulders Beach in Simon's Town and observe and photograph the penguins. I really hope that we will be able to see them, as well (will attempt a Great White shark safari out of Simon's Town, weather permitting).


You will go to Africa again, I have no doubt about that. Please, share in the Trip Planning section your next plans.

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This has been a really enjoyable trip report.

You very much communicate the feelings of the last game drive - trying to soak it all up!

Great sightings as well.

Really interesting to see the penguins at the end - I didn't know about them.

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to put this together.

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This is a great report, I have enjoyed every picture and every post :)!


Thanks a lot!

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@Terry Thank you for a terrific trip report! It looks like you saw quite a lot and what a last game drive! I really enjoyed the Nyala, baby elephant and lion shots! At some point I'd like to get to Boudlers Beach - can I ask were you able to fly directly from Hoedspruit to Cape Town?

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It may have been just to scare us, of course.


I certainly think so, yes. The normal reaction of any cat would be to run away. Humans = danger.


Still, there's a chance the cat resorts to violence as a means of defense. So that anecdote about the fool jumping out of the vehicle; I understand the guide's reaction perfectly. He is responsible for those guests. His career is at stake if he fails to keep them safe. But what can a guide do with a person who behaves like this? Absolutely nothing! So his only option is "get out of my car, get out of the reserve, and get out of my life".


It's actually not just the life of the guest that is at risk. The cat's life is at risk too. Any guide would hate to shoot a cat that attacks, but in this case he would be obliged to do so in order to save that person's life. No guide wants to experience this.


Here's something I witnessed; a guide had a family with three young children in his vehicle (two early teens, one a bit older), among other guests. All day-trippers, leaving the same night again, to sleep outside the reserve. He gave them instructions on how to behave. The first big 5 sighting was ruined because of the way the children behaved. The parents did nothing. So the guide immediately said; "if this happens again I'm taking you back to the lodge". The second big 5 sighting; bam, the same thing. So the guide takes them back.

At the lodge the parents start complaining, but the manager isn't there, so basically it's their word against the guide's. The family has to stay at the lodge's bar area until the game drive is over. After the drive (and after dinner), again the parents start shouting, about the money they paid etc. The guide says; no problem, and gives them their money back (out of his own pocket, as they made payment in advance via a TA). They do not want his money, grab it from his hands, and throw it off the balcony. It flies off with the wind.

Fast forward, two months later. I get a message from that guide, his management in CC. The family has left a very bad review on TripAdvisor. They judged the rooms and everything, even though they never slept there. The guide's management is giving him a hard time, even though his tracker and the lodge staff all confirm his story. However, none of the people in his vehicle that night want to confirm the story. So the guide contacted us, because we were in camp and because we were also at one of those ruined sightings, in our own vehicle.

I gladly confirm the whole story, including something that only I saw; at noon, the kids threw sugar cubes from the coffee table towards some monkeys nearby, while the parent had a good laugh about it. I was the one who told them to stop (no staff were around), but they wouldn't (well they did after their hands were empty, as there was no more sugar in the pot).

It took three more months to get the bad report off TripAdvisor (also with my help). And the manager told me it also had cost quite a bit of money to dart and relocate those monkeys. At first they shot at them with a paintball gun, hoping to teach them to stay away, but it didn't really work, and the manager grew tired of explaining to guests why some monkeys had a pink limb. :D


Anyway, all this just to say it's not an easy decision for a guide to take someone back to the lodge. And even though he may save the day for other guests, even though he may save lives of both guests and animals; there will be damage. Financial damage, in the form of a bad review.





Edited by Jochen
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We looked at each other and said, “Let’s go to Africa again!” And so we shall.


Africa bug! Infected & no cure! :D

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Thank you @@Terry ,


a fantastic trip report, really one of the most enjoyable ones for me - and that´s saying something, because we have many terrific ones here. It seems a sure thing you will be "back", and I´m already looking forward to reading about your next safari.

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Thank you all for reading this and taking the time to let me know you enjoyed reading it. It has been fun posting it and reading your comments.


@PT123 Last October, there was a flight twice a week going directly from Hoedspruit to Cape Town. We had to start a 12-safari on a Thursday in order to fly on a Tuesday to Cape Town. It made getting reservations a little more tricky. We would not have gone if we would have had do two flights and stay over night in Jo'berg in between.


@@Jochen, Enjoyed your story about the difficult guests. It's good to be reminded how difficult the line is that the lodges have to walk between keeping both their guests and the animals safe, yet not offending to the point of losing out financially.


@FlyTraveler Looking forward to reading about the Great White shark safari out of Simon's Town. We had expected to do a boat trip out to Seal Island to see the fur seals who are the favorite food of the Great White sharks in the area. We may have even seen another kill - but the weather was so unpredictable that day, alternating between high winds with rain and periods of sunshine, that we just stayed on shore.


I have learned so much from all of you and I thank you all for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

Looking forward to reading all your trip reports and looking at your great photography. It is a wonderful start to my day.. and a wonderful finish also.



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  • 1 month later...

Thank you for sharing; some excellent info to help with my own planning.

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The rolling buffalo, the grooming leopards. Really great sightings. I was really noticing those warthog legs when I read your comments on them. We don't often see all 4 prancing legs on show.


So how many leopards did you end up seeing?


We finally learned where you took your avatar shot. Such an enjoyable report and your enjoyment of it all came shining through.


Quite an account @@Jochen. What a terrible lesson those parents taught their kids.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Maybe that's a new thread.. tourists behaving badly?

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@Atravelynn We saw eight unique leopards, all but one of them multiple times. I really liked staying at a camp long enough to get to follow the activity of individual animals, be it the elephants, the lions or the leopards for the wonderful glimpses into their lives.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Eight is very impressive, along with everything else, including the penguins in Cape Town!


Enjoy Spring, eventually!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Terry,

Stumbled upon this site last night in my ongoing quest for any up to date info on Klaserie and in particular Gomo Gomo as we will be staying there for 4 night in July as part of my husband's 60th birthday celebrations.I spent hours reading your trip report and thoroughly enjoyed both the report and the stunning photographs.

I hope we are as lucky as you were,although just being on safari in Africa is magical enough as you never know what is round the next corner! This will be our 4th safari in Africa,but our 1st in South Africa.

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Thank you for a terrific trip report, with some stunning photos. Well done.

I would be interested in your comparison of Klasserie to Timbavati. Your experience at Gomo Gomo seemed nothing short of spectacular. How did Timbavati compare? We are planning a trip later this year, and so would appreciate your views.

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Hi @@Tommy1268,

Good to hear from you. Glad you enjoyed our trip report. The lodge we stayed at in the Timbavati Reserve, Kambaku, is very close to Klaserie reserve so we surely did not see much of reserves given their immense sizes. The two reserves border each other and KrugerNational Park so animals can pass freely between the two areas. We did notice that Timbavati had more dry river beds, rolling hills and views of distant mountains than what we could see in the Klaserie reserve. The main difference in the landscape was caused by the huge herd of elephants in Klaserie. They have demolished most of the large trees around Gomo Gomo. The staff has barricaded a few of the largest trees near the lodge to protect what is left. All the smaller trees are well pruned. However, neither reserve is a savannah, but rather both are typical African bush.


It would be easier to point out differences between the two lodges rather than the reserves themselves. Animal sightings will very from trip to trip. Where ever the large buffalo herds are, the lions will likely be there also. I would say the only thing that I would bet on is that the waterhole at Gomo Gomo will be filled with elephants every day. The waterhole made the lodge visit very special. There were always animals and birds to watch from our cabin veranda.


Feel free to ask more questions if you wish. I love the opportunity to relive our trip.


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