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Kruger private selected cheaper camps June /july 2014


COSMIC RHINO
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all the places I went to the comment was that there are not as many animals as there often is as the rain earlier in the year was better, so they are more spread out .

 

this was very obviously the case for Tnagala, shindzela and especially pungwe.

 

whoever was used for the Tangala transfer arived late ,so I waited for a while at eastgate airport afer getting the airline inquiry desk to ring my agent to see what was going on.

 

TANGALA SAFARI LODGE

 

Tangala is the only lodge in the southern section of the Thornybush reserve, there are 12 in the north. all lodges may use the full reserve for driving in , except for the night drive when they have to keep to their own concession. Tangala has one of the larger concessions.

 

lodges exchange sitings on a radio sysyem with 2 vehicles per siting , for security reasons rhinos are no longer called on the radios. they are found through tracking or mentioned when vehicles come together.

 

all the lodges in the north are high level luxury places. guests go out later than at Tngala and come back sooner as they wish to enjoy the comfort of their cabin and camp, this being seen as an important part of their stay , but not the way I want to do things, even if I could afford it.

 

by far the most luxurious is Royal malewane, one of the most elaborate places to stay in sth africa. it is a retreat of celebetries who book the whole place out when they stay. Elton john does this yearly , inviting the friends he wishes to party with. RM is owned by a single wealthy local who owns a real estate agency in town.

 

some lodges like RM lease land rovers from Avis for zar 11,000 per month covering the use of and maintence of the vehicle which is fitted with 2 seats per row. the agreement lsts 2 yeasrs, then a new one is supplied.

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tangala is a simple electricity free bush camp established in 1944

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the cabins are brick with thatch roofs, and a good generous size

 

night lighting both in the cabins and around the camp is provided by oil lanterns

 

there is a central lounge,dining area with a animals waterhole and a swimming pool

 

the waterhole can be good for wharthogs,nyala, zebras,giraffe and buffalos

 

nyala freely roam around the camp

 

the camp is unfenced

 

simple homestyle meals are prepared on a wood fire or a oven operated from bottled gas

 

the water is safr to drink, tea, drinking chocolate, instant and plunger coffe is provided in the daily rate. wine, beer and soft drinks are available at extra cost and must be paid for in cash

 

it is a good opportunity to get away from it all with mimimal wifi reception of any sort

 

morning and late afternoon/evening game drives are conductred in an open land rover

 

this time of year is uncrowded in camp

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During my time here I had a wonderfull white rhino siting of a group of 10 rubbing their horns together to reinforce their bonds, 2 good black rhino sitings, elephants close up , a cheetah siting, some hippos at the dam, mating lions, some leopards and some general plains game.

 

it is a good comfortable place to stay with good animal sitings.

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Looking forward to how Tangala compares to Shindzela, having been to Shindzela and thoroughly appreciated it!

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surprisingly some of the same people who stayed there in 2012 when I was there were also there in 2014, a British lawyer and his family

 

tangala is a lodge with cabins, not having electcity it can be a bit dark so bring a goood flashlight/torch

 

the waterhole is far larger than schindzela

 

another important differnce is that the Thornybush reserve has its own seperate fence , so the animals stay within the reserve, although they can move around

 

all the guides I have had a tangala are very good

 

the man who was there last year has gone to the dark side and become a professional hunter

 

the new guide is very knowledgeable, friendly and a good communicator

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thornybush is very well named, I take light cotton rubberised garden gloves with me , the vehicles do go close to some serious bushes, especially when of the track

 

the only nightlight comes from oil lamps, it is usefull to have a good torch to supplement it

 

be cautious about the bed, don't get in a panic and beat up the lump, it is likely to be the hotwater bottle and you don't want to sleep with wet sheets.

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A major diference between areas is the vegetation which has important effects on the animals.

 

around kruger there are areas of acacia bush and areas of mopone

 

thornybush is based on acacia and has more zebras and giraffes, large areas of timbavti reserve including Shindzela bush camp are mpoane

 

my time at thornybush was wonderfully enjoyable

 

 

 

SHINDZELA BUSH CAMP

 

Unfortunately my transfer vehicle arrived late, but I was able to make it in time for the gamedrive

 

Shindzela is a simple unfenced bush camp with a 3,500 hectare viewing concession

 

the tents are placed on wooden platforms with beds, a hanging robe, dressing table, and bedside table, led lights , and an outdoor bathroom screen with reeds or wood for privacy.

 

there are a few simple dirt paths around camp, no areas have been artifically cleared of vegetation

 

the wharthog family continie to visit camp regulary to craze and drink from small pond. the grass is more open than in some other areas, and they enjoy being under one of the tent's wooden platforms, and the platform under the building which combines the lounge, dining room and kitchen, they find this cooler and safer, the mother gave birth here

 

brunch is in the dinnig room and unless it is raining dinner is on tables setup around the fire

 

safety is treated seriously with a solid core wooden door on each tent, the safety rules are laminated and pinned up on the inside of eacgh door, and al movement after dark is under the escort of a ranger.

 

the gamedrives are in open land rovers

 

well when I was there last year Sam had noticed that I was no fan of Ferrari safaris and not keen on lions, he had noticed that my favourite animals are rhinos and elephants, and I actually enjoyed trees and termite mounds. he was not my guide , but he had noticed this. so he asked for a PV to take me around since I was going to be there for 7 days , so there was no one else with me unless the place was crowded , I had a PV for 5 days.

 

the emphasis was on rhinos, elephants , general plains game ,buffalos and the landscape.

 

it was a wonderfull time , I find it marvelous just being out in the bush here and elsewhere

 

elephants were still around, although with the rain earlier in the year there were not as many of them as last year. there were a number of good elephant sitings, a small one adopted mum's habit of mock charging the vehicle.

 

rhinos are no longer skitish in the area and I had a about 7 sitings including 1 close siting with a receptive territorial male, and one when 3 lions decided to go stalking

 

the trees look lovely in the early morning light and in the evening , especially when near the drakensburg mountains

 

I only saw inactive lions a few times, why so many are interested I don't know. Someone over brunch actually spoke of his action photo of a lion yarning

 

zebras and giraffe were seen a few times, but it is not the best area for them

 

it is also beyond me why quiet a few people go around with loose shoe laces, walking around bushes, rocks and spikey trees you are just asking for trouble. one man actually had an encounter with bushes from of road driving, his entire nose and one eyebrow were bandaged. welll he continued with the loose shoelaces.

 

leopards were seen a number of times, but not that closely

 

the guides have very good bush mechanic skills. a vehicle close broke down in the bush during the evening drive , the passengers were transfered to other vehicles . the next day the vehicle was found, it was a serious breakdown, the cables which control the movement of the wheels had been severed. new cabels were fitted insitu in the bush only using the car's jack and handtools. It was not taken back to the workshop.

 

large herds of buffaloes were seen a number of times, including when I was totally surrounded by them (in the vehicle) on all sides

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unlike last year, there was much talk of wild dog tracks, but as many might know they are not easy to find as they move so quickly

 

there were a number of mentions all to no end viewing

 

then the dogs were actally seen, it took a while to arrive

 

they were close with a number of adukts accompanied by young, a pack of around 15 in total

 

all vehicles were there for a while, then the others went of to check for other things, I remained with Sam folowing them for quiet a while . surprisingly they were not running quickly in several directions at the same time . it is not easy to work out which way they woukd go next, the aim was to find their den. this was not possible after they turned into an area of concentrated thick mopane trees.

 

Sam is an experienced guide who has worked for many years in the Kruger area. he started as a tracker and impressed the manager of the lodge a great dwal with his skills, he suggested that he become a guide, something that Sam was not initally interested in Sam was not especially keen about speaking to guests . the camp boss made a number of requests, and eventally said, that you might as well start your part time training as I am not going to give up on having ypu as a guide. Sam qualified as a guide as is very happy about it.

 

spending time with Sam I was told about things, new recruits have their sense of direction and bush driving skills tested . if necessary further in the bush training is given.

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1 backtracking a bit, I developed a minor head cold when I was at Tangala which I treated with eccanacia tablets. It kept it under control but kind of hang around to the end of my trip. Afyer discussing it with guides next time I am bringing what I need to knock it of fast and totally, therte is no issue with having a jar of garlic in your cabin. So I am taking a jar and teaspoon, and will eat it raw if required.

 

2 Schindzela operates of highly effective solar power cells with good backup storage batteries

 

 

there is no charging facility in the tents but a collective charging station in the lounge

 

wifi is connected at the camp, but I did not take a whole lot of notice what is the allocation per room as I don't take a computer or phone with me.

 

other guests were using their computers without a problem, just like Super Leeds has done before

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Schindzela is a good place to stay with wonderfull guides.

 

I enjoy being in a place where the bush experience is the most important thing to do , and not relaxing in the lap of luxury.

 

the concession is large when compared with some others at timbavati but much smaller than the mega exopensive Ngayla

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one morning it was noticed by another vehicle that the cooler box was loose , it was recovered empty.

 

I told Sam that I could get by without it , he said that he wanted to get back the contents , not that it was likely to be noticed

 

well leaving things behind was not desireable, everything was recovered flask, spoons, mugs, tea,coffee ,muffins spread in several locations near the track

 

I regard being in nature as primary, everything else is detail, it was good to have removed litter and food un natural to our animal companions.

 

nature is primary, when looking for rhinos, I geld onto my call of nature until after the rhinos had been seen along with the stalking lions, well they ran away fast when they were charged

 

the folk at Schindzela are friend with ngalya and exchange information on animals sitings on their common boundry

 

Ngalya has a whole lot of people working there, I could hear singing I asked Sam about it, well that is their church service, as a joke I suggested that an elephant be invited for the feast day of St Francis of Assasi

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not that I am that much of a birder ,but I like a challenge

 

I managed to photograph lilac breasted rollers in good detail a number of times, once backlit at pungwe bush camp, and sitting on the back of a white rhino at Lewa

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PUNGWE BUSH CAMP

 

This place is in the Manyleti game reserve and does morning walks with afternoon/evening drives

 

it has a large concession

 

last year the rhinos were wonderfull, well they must have gone wandering or made themselves scarce. TThe closest I got were tracks and middens

 

other than large herds of buffalos thwere was nit much of any animals to see at all

 

there was one one good general plains game drive

 

the camp now takes in a lot of people from a Dutch agent who stay a night or two as part of a longer tour, most of them were ok, but there was one noisy group, with one of them telling me that dinner seat allocation was going to be done on the basis of a game of musical chairs, I responded that I was not going to go along with that .

 

also I don't like the guide who made a big point that I was travelling alone (well I told hime before that I split from someone who was making frequent suicide threats) and I went around without a cell phone(well I don't want to contact anyone and the recption at Pungwe is almost non existent )

 

the place operates of wood fires, and gas cylinders. the power generator was broen down, so forget about charging batteries.

 

I will not be returning here

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I just went there to fill in a few days until going to my next place, it would have been much better if I had asked about staying longer at Schindzela or say gone to nthambo camp

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The night drive is really cold, I was thinking of using a balaclava on my next trip , then I noticed the guide and tracker at Schindzela wrapping the scarf around the neck multiple times, it is a whole lot warmer

 

the tracker gave me a porcupine quill, it is great to clear stones out of the sole of my boots , next time I will bring a skewer

 

I almost had a bit of accident, some body wash well spilled out of its container into a plastic bag, in my hotel stogage bag. next year I am taking essential oil hand wash in a well sealed container.

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ELEPHANT PLAINS

 

I went there to get into a larger concession and it was a good choice

 

they have a concession of 5,000 with good viewing of elephants, rhinos,leopards, lions and wild dog.

 

there is a wild dog pack in the area , with each lodge allocated one day per week at their den site, they sometimes wander more widely.

 

the place is luxurious, has a fence around it, set cement pathways or timber walkways, a water feature st the front and very good food, all of which I could have done without.

 

the waterhole is way in the distance so bring your binos and high magnification zoom lens, it can be good with eles appearing, or can be just whathogs, impals or no animals at all.

 

it can be viewed from the restraunt/bar area or near your room

 

at brunch I often say other guests almost walk into the swimming pool fully clothed complete with camera, in order to get a waterhole view. I asked the staff has anyone evr walked into the pool ;and was suprised mwhern they said no

 

there are gamedrives twice a day and a brief morning walk, this always happens even if only one person is walking.

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the walks cover trees,tracks, termite mounds etc and are very good

 

children are accomadated in the camp, if they want to walk a tracker shows them the trees with the camp grounds.

 

under sth african law no one under 16 yrs is allowed to walk in a game rerserve

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There is a problem with vervet monkeys around camp, guests are given the keys to their rooms and told to keep the door locked at all times.

 

the screen door on the roundavals is a very solid wood a chicken wire construction overlaid with finer flyscreen mesh, it has a sliding bolt

 

the pathways have low lights close to ground. the lighting is not bright, it is best to bring your own torch/flashlight to supplement it.

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game drives are done in open landcruisers , there are enough of them to ensure that they are not crowded.

 

gameviewing was very good or excellent on all drives

 

each drive is about 3 hours, if you get lucky the viewing is such that the guide stays with the wildlife and skips the drinks break.

 

well some people don't have a clue about important things, a Japanese couple had the drink and muffin in the morning, then went of for a short jog, I commented that it was unsafe and there was a gym in camp for exercise

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the sitings were great

 

the best was seeing a small elephant family at a mud wallow, most unusual leopards mating

 

very good sitings of eles,rhinos and leopards

 

hippos are in the area, now I have my own picture of a hipp with his mouth fully open

 

the place has a wonderfull bush feel mixed with grassland and woodlands

 

the camp waterhole can be very good, the perfect reason for a short showr, but don't go walking barefoot on the timber deck afterwards, it heats up

 

the guides are well informed and good communicators, I had Morney , unusually for a lodge wifes are given jobs in the office, greeting guests etc

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Male groups of buffaloes are present but no families

 

dining is done at both an indoor dining room with nearby outdoor seating and a boma

 

the brunch is buffet style and dinner is plated with orders taken at brunch

 

the boma is made up in a fancy way with brick walls, and larger fuel enhanced fires inside metal containers. at the end people are offreed marshmellows to toast with a metal pole which is at least 6 feet long , to keep a distance from the strong flames

 

single travellers eat dinner with a guide or at a group table with the other people from their vehicle

 

the food is very fancy and good quality, restraunt grade

 

they pay special attention to dietary requirements , since I put myself down for no red meat or soy products I was has an initial cabin visit from the chef to check things out , and was regulary asked if things were ok.

 

food as good as it was , was very a metre detail, I came for the gameviewing which was very good

 

the leopards are easier to find here a quiet often are more settled at a siting

 

all wildlife sitings are limited to 2 vehicles at a time from the lodges in the area

 

Rein has left Africa on Foot and moved to Arthusa lodge, we greeted briefly over som sitings . I found it surprising that he remmenber me out of the many guest he has had, I did not think that I looked that distinctive ,perhaps I was noticed as I am not keen on Ferrari safaris ,and am very keen on rhinos and elephants.

 

I spoke to morney, the guide view of Ferrari Safaris is unfsavourable, they don't like racing around the place ticking of someone's animal viewing list and regard them as a waste of their training

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The rooms at ele plains are large and airconditioned

 

as in every other placed I stayed they had a wake up call, I had an alarm clock and was already almost fully dressed and ready to move

 

they put on the bed each evening chocolates (which I did not eat), a brief weather forecast and printed myth tales of African animals.

 

you get used to food in a certain pattern at ele plains all the food is very good

 

breakfast , lunch and dinner are served as seperate meals

 

at breakfast and possibly early morning [pre game drive drinks there is also a container of apples

 

take care not to look to closely into the waterhole and fall into the swimming pool

 

a whole lot of the produece which is very fresh and tasty comes from a local farmers cooperative

 

sorry for any typos

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  • 2 weeks later...

I could see other people using wifi devices, as I don't have one I did not notice if there is an allowance in the daily rate

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  • 7 months later...

ELEPHANT PLAINS

 

I went there to get into a larger concession and it was a good choice

 

they have a concession of 5,000 with good viewing of elephants, rhinos,leopards, lions and wild dog.

 

there is a wild dog pack in the area , with each lodge allocated one day per week at their den site, they sometimes wander more widely.

 

the place is luxurious, has a fence around it, set cement pathways or timber walkways, a water feature st the front and very good food, all of which I could have done without.

 

the waterhole is way in the distance so bring your binos and high magnification zoom lens, it can be good with eles appearing, or can be just whathogs, impals or no animals at all.

 

it can be viewed from the restraunt/bar area or near your room

 

at brunch I often say other guests almost walk into the swimming pool fully clothed complete with camera, in order to get a waterhole view. I asked the staff has anyone evr walked into the pool ;and was suprised mwhern they said no

 

there are gamedrives twice a day and a brief morning walk, this always happens even if only one person is walking.

 

~ @@COSMIC RHINO:

 

Several weeks ago I was perusing the Elephant Plains Web site, wondering what sort of experience it might be.

Reading your comprehensive review is highly useful to me, as now I have a fleshed out sense of Elephant Plains as a safari destination.

Thank you very much for taking time to write this trip report for those of us interested in moderately priced options in South Africa.

Tom K.

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