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A tantalizing tale of twenty-eight tortoises


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@@Jochen at least you had a legitimate reason to leave your vehicle - we saw someone get out to take a picture of a giant land snail :(


That is not very smart. :D

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a great read with super photos, thanks @@Jochen

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Looks and sounds fantastic..

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Keep going man.


@@Jochen, did you use your camera trap during this trip at all?

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Keep going man.


@@Jochen, did you use your camera trap during this trip at all?


Not much. At Mashatu, you're in a "fenced" lodge. At all the rest camps in Kruger you're in a fenced off plot as well. I only used it at Shindzela (part still to come). But not a lot of success this time. Just Hyaena.

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Who knows what lurks in the thicket during our "check the tire stops"? I always prefer to step behind the vehicle over venturing out to find a bush. Great variety in Part 5.

Edited by Atravelynn
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A great read with excellent photos

Your encounter with the elephant was scary (a good thing you know what to do)

- and the lions so close to where you got out of the car!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Part six; Kruger NP, south section.


So we stayed one night at Lower Sabie, in the tents. I think they're awesome. Here's how they look:







One thing though; please make sure to lock up your food cabinet real good. As you can see from the first picture, there's a grill covering some cupboards and your fridge. A chain connects both grill doors. Well, apparently our chain was a bit too loose and (probably) a baboon was able to get his arm in and steal 6 hamburger buns. :D

Edited by Jochen
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Our next two nights we were going to spend at Biyamiti Bush Camp. So on the next morning we drove in that direction, but took a serious detour, just for fun. First we went south, using the gravel road S28, all the way to Crocodile bridge, and had breakfast there. At one point we could see that we were nearing the park borders, as we could see the cultivated lands in the distance. That was a bit of a sad moment for us; after a week of being in pure nature, you cannot believe how ugly a landscape looks that has been sculpted by homo sapiens.

So we turned our back to civilization and drove back north, first on the H4-2 tar road all the way to Lower Sabie, there we went NW on the H4-1, following the Sabie river, and then eventually turned SW on the S21, towards the old railway line that bisects the southern portion of Kruger NP. This area is very pretty. Perhaps nicest of all is the private road that Biyamiti camp sits on. It’s a stretch of road that's 20km+, and only people who stay at Biyamiti are allowed on it. So there’s very few cars, and it’s a very beautiful area. Very hilly with some steeps ascends/descends. Perhaps the most pretty part is the river crossing at a small dam, at the western end of that road.

One thing though; the road is very narrow. So watch out for elephants, and don’t go too fast. We had a few herds on the road, but one in particular was not inclined to let us through. They were browsing all around, and in the middle was a massive bull. He was not in musth, so I think he just joined up with them for comfort or something (or perhaps he’s a relative), but still that doesn’t mean I was going to annoy him by going too close.
At one point he fell asleep while standing on the middle of the road. While the encounter was fun, it did give us a bit of stress as a.) there was a car behind us (no escape route) and b.) we were almost too late at the camp entrance. So; make sure you calculate sufficient time to get to this camp, at least if you come from the west on their private road. This western part of the Biyamiti road takes at least one hour to complete. That is without any road block.

Here’s some pictures of that first day. No cats, but plenty of rhino, ellies, etc. Also some gorgeous birds.

























Edited by Jochen
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Almost forgot our most unique sighting of the whole trip; an albino impala!



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The next day we had company. We had room to spare (the Biyamiti units sleep 6 people), so we had invited some friends. People who we actually met on the international Air France flight to Jo'burg the year before. He is an actor that played in a Bond movie and in Coronation Street. His wife is from Brazil, and works for UN. Because of their love for Africa, and because she (obviously) speaks Portuguese and Mozambique is not that far away, they bought a house in Nelspruit. Unfortunately, because of their old age, they don’t use the house that much anymore, so they were planning on selling it.

So we decided to drive to Nelspruit over noon, have a look at their house, and take them with us on a game drive that afternoon. By the way, if anyone wants more info on that house; just send me a PM. It was an absolutely stunning house, but unfortunately for us it was a bit far from the bush.

On our morning game drive (on the way out via Malelane gate) we saw very little, apart from a very good sighting of a troop of baboons. The Biyamiti road was very quiet, in comparison to the previous day. However, on our afternoon game drive, with our guests on board, we saw an amazing amount of elephants, rhino, and also two male lions. Again, all our best sightings were on that Biyamiti road (the lions, and seven rhinos in total). Too bad we hadn’t been able to get back to the lodge sooner; you lose one extra hour - each way - because of the roadworks between Nelspruit and the Moz border.

Some images;











































In the evening we had a nice braai, and two genets kept us company, looking to steal some of our food. Again we slept very well at Biyamiti. It was very quiet there compared to other camps. Perhaps it was because we had the last house in the row. Nonetheless; this accommodation was easily the best we’ve had in Kruger NP; a big terrace with outside salon and dining area, a big kitchen, nice and airy bedrooms. Perhaps the only downside was the smaller bathroom (shower only); it was so small that you barely could find a place to stand when you opened the door. A bit silly, given the size of each unit.

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Unfortunately the next day it was time for us to leave Kruger NP. We did a small game drive before exiting the park at Malelane gate again. This time we took the west part of the Biyamiti road though. It’s only 3km or so before you hit the tar road. But we had to go this way, as we dies not have much time to lose. We had to drop our guests off at Nelspruit, then drive all the way to Hoedspruit, and enter Timbavati gate there, for our last part of this safari; a few days at Shindzela Bush Camp!


Here's the images I took on the way out of the park;

















I forgot but it was quite a drive from the gate to Shindzela. The camp is really far in. So we were barely in time for the afternoon game drive. Still, it seems we wee lucky as we had been able to drive from Nelspruit to Hoedspruit without any traffic jams. We were told that the day before there had been some (election-related) demonstrations, which caused major problems on the roads. But it seems we avoided those.


But let me finish this portion of the trip report with an obligatory sunset pic (although obviously it wasn't taken at noon on that last day, lol).



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Next up; Shindzela in Timbavati reserve. I'll try to write it over the weekend.

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Almost forgot our most unique sighting of the whole trip; an albino impala!




a Messenger!


he looks like some snow king. ethereal. lovely.


thanks for sharing

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On the tortoises; over those last two days their tally had shot up to 25. We're still not sure why. Was it because of that little bit of rain that had passed by? Was it just the area?


One of the things you learn is to not pick up a tortoise in the dry season, because it has a bursal sac containing water, and it may release that water in a stressful situation (like being picked up). In the dry season, that may be the tortoises' death. But this was the wet season, and we picked up quite a few, because they were on the road and so damn small they just looked like a little piece of rock. We'd just put them on the side of the road, and they'd disappear in the grass. I remember driving even slower as usual on those last days, just to be able to spot them in time.


One one occasion, we also saw terrapins on the road. They were at the edge of a little pond that had formed on the road, as a result of the rain. When we drove too close, they dove into the water and it was impossible to see or find them. How do you rescue these? Taking them out is no option, even if you could find them. Because they'd run straight back to the water.


We hoped the pond would dry out asap. Because at that point any car that drove through the water while they were submerged was a potential killer.

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Part seven; Shindzela, Timbavati reserve


At Shindzela we were assigned hut no1 which is the closest one to the main area of the camp. Quite different from the room we had last time, but who cares? We were there to enjoy ourselves for a couple more days. And to finally meet up with Johan! He’s a guide that used to work at Gomo Gomo, so we had seen him plenty of times while we stayed at nThambo or Africa On Foot. But we never spoke in real life, only over Facebook. So Johan no longer works at Gomo Gomo, but at Shindzela. Apparently he just followed the managers of Gomo Gomo. They are two brothers, and their 3rd brother has bought Shindzela from previous owner Dave. So now the two bro’s manage the camp for their other bro. And they took Johan with them to Shindzela. But Sam, the tracker, is still there! And so is the famous kitchen staff.


Camp has improved quite a bit. There's a pool now, and the central area is twice as big, with a proper salon and dining area.






The semi-tame warthog had piglets, two females of which have by now also produced offspring. So there's quite a few tame warthogs that pass though camp, to mow the lawn.


As before, elephants come through camp regularly, to drink water from the riverbed (or to dig for it in the sand, as the river's dry for most of the year). There was also a permanent waterhole/pool in the riverbed but it was so close to camp (ic the swimming pool) that the new owners decided to move it up on the rocks on the other side of the river. They make sure there's always water by running a little pump now and then.

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So what did we see there, on our last days of safari?


I can’t really recall what we saw on what day, but I can be short; Shindzela delivered again! Never a boring game drive, always something fantastic to see. We had close encounters with elephants, and two lion encounters (twice the same individuals; one female and two sub adults). He had rhino, hyena, giant eagle owl, kudu, … I think the only thing we missed was leopard. But who cares, because on two game drives (one in the afternoon, and then the next one in the morning) we had a pack of 8 wild dogs.

Yup, wild dogs again. This is the 3rd time at Shindela, and on this three visits we had two with wild dogs, and one where one wild dog ran through camp but we were unable to track it. So that’s a 2,5 out of 3. Not bad.

On the 2nd sighting, we first had to share the dogs wit Ngala vehicles (as the dogs were on the cutline). But when they moved onto Shindzela’s property, we had them all to ourselves for a very long time. Not in the beginning, because Johan invited the Ngala vehicles over - both lodges have a very good relationship with each other), but after a while the Ngala vehicles left (probably brekkie time) and we saw the dogs bathing and hunting. The hunt did not go as expected though. We saw an impala fawn that got separated from it’s mother, and the dogs were coming right at it, so we thought “he/she’s dead meat”. But the dogs took too long so we went to look for them, and at the precise moment we saw them, one had gotten hold of a scrub hare. The poor thing was torn apart and ingested within ten seconds. And the impala fawn was promptly renamed "most lucky impala of the day in the whole of Kruger area".


Here’s some Shindzela game drive pics;


















(please don't crap on me please don't crap on me please don't crap on me...)










Some night drive shots;







Edited by Jochen
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And here' some pics of the lions we saw at Shindzela. Aparently there's quite a bit of lion action going on in the area, quite unlike previous year when a too big coalition of males wreaked havoc over the whole of Timbavati. This is a small pride; just one female and two sub adult males, but there's lot more lions passing through. To get an idea, I suggest following the group "Lions of Timbavati & Klaserie" on Facebook;




Most game rangers post their sightings regularly, and share info on who is who + who moved where. Johan is a regular poster to the group.















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Some more ellie shots. First at the pool on the rock other side of the riverbed;






And this is IN the riverbed, next to camp. Johan let us approach them on foot.





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And then of course I owe you the images of the dogs.


Latest news is that they're denning on Ngala plot, so they are fairly regularly sen these days. Sometimes multiple days in a row, just like in our case. You can follow Johan's Facebook posts if you want to know the latest sightings. Or the Shindzela FB page;










The guys next door;









Scrub hare, from the famous movie "gone in 10 seconds"














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To conclude, here's Sam and Johan at work in their office.






(Yes, Johan is quite a hoot)

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Jochen , your reports are always fun and educational. You cover all areas very well , the camps ,the wildlife, the landscape, the birds and you also share some amusing anecdotes .


And then there are the photos of course ....!!


Thanks for sharing another great trip with us, I'm enjoying it a lot.




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super stuff @@Jochen what a great end to your safari

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On our last game drive, it had been raining a bit, and after sunset our ponchos were soaked. Which did not mean we didn't have fun, because I remember exchanging Dutch/Afrikaans songs with Johan, and also the wild cat sighting was that evening. Also we saw so much Red Crested Korhaan that Johan went nuts and started shouting "RRRRed CRRRRested KoRRRRRhaaannnn" every time we passed one, using his rolling R to the max. :D


Anyway, that rain did not go away in the night, and the next morning when we had to leave camp, it started pouring. We had quite a long drive ahead of us that day, having to drive our 4x4 all the way back to Jo'burg, so we left real early. Still, we barely made it (the car had to be returned by 4PM the latest, and we arrived just 15 minutes earlier). This was because we drove the whole seven hours in the pouring rain (very exhausting!) Never knew it could be raining like that for hundreds of kilometers on end. The week after we got home, we heard that they had quite some trouble in the Kruger area. Lots of floods, Biyamiti camp was closed for a while. And some friends at Shindzela had to leave their car at camp, and were escorted to the airport by 4x4 (the car was returned later, by the camp).


It seems we had come to the lowveld at the right time, and left at the right time.


Edit; forgot to say: we were able to add 3 more individuals to our tortoise count, ending at 28. But unfortunately not the 30 we had hoped for. Thirty tortoises would have been a total tongue twister. Now read that last sentence 5 times in a row.


THE END, folks.


If there's any questions; just let me know! Hope you enjoyed.


Here's a final sunset 4 U. Those are the mountains as seen from Shindzela plot.



Edited by Jochen
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