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Cruising with Chad - Motswari October 2014


JulieM
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Hubby and I had just finished an astonishing 2 week safari in Kenya with our buddies @@AugustineM and her partner Dave. The trip report for that part of the trip is here: http://safaritalk.net/topic/13325-a-cat-trick-a-crossing-and-a-kill-an-outstanding-opening-to-a-superb-safari/

 

Augustine and Dave were on their way home, via Bangkok. Billy and I had flown in through Johannesburg from Australia, as we were able to get cheap flights that way, and so decided to spend a bit more time on safari, because you can never spend too many days on safari!! The Kruger region seemed a pretty good choice, as it wasn't far from Johannesburg so the search began for a safari spot. On our last safari in Botswana, I had come across a copy of Africa Geographic and had read a really funny article written by Chad Cocking who was a guide (somewhere - I didn't know where at that point). As you do, I lurked around the internet until I found him and started following him on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chad-Cocking-Wildlife-Photography/237356082948520 and then I subscribed to the blog that he writes for Motswari http://www.newmarkhotels.com/latest-news/motswari-blog/ There is another guide who is into photography at Motswari who also takes wonderful images https://www.facebook.com/pages/Keith-Connelly-Photographics/119507356354 So, it seemed an obvious choice to see if we could hang out with Chad and Keith at Motswari Private Game Reserve! We got a great price on Expedia - significantly cheaper than anywhere in Kenya. I messaged Chad on Facebook to see if we could request him to be our guide, and happily he replied and was able to organise that for us. After a night in Johannesburg we flew to Hoedspruit airport for a 5 night stay. The lodge organised a pickup, which took about an hour from the airport and we arrived at the lodge just after midday.

 

Motswari is in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park Conservancy. There are 15 bungalows, air-conditioned, with a front verandah as well as a sitting area. Ours overlooked the river. There is a large open verandah lounge which had a bar and a gift shop and was where we would have lunch and pre-game drinks. There was also an art gallery and other rooms where talks are held.

 

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Turns out Chad was giving a ranger talk about photography before lunch so of course we were going to that!

 

Lunch was announced by the beating of drums and then a procession of the kitchen workers holding aloft the food while singing - very special! As always, the food was wonderful.

 

Game drives are more timetabled here than they were in Kenya. They would start at a set time, and finish at a set time also - although Chad had the reputation of always being late back! The vehicles are also different from Kenya, being completely open which was a new experience for us. There are 3 rows of seats, with 3 seats per row and they are at times full. Our first few game drives was with 4 others but on our last few there were 6 others which we, to be honest, found quite challenging. With a mix of different experiences and interests among a bigger group, the guides must have a tough job catering for that.

 

They use trackers here. Chad's tracker was just a young fella called Mbogeni. He hadn't long finished his trackers course but he had really good eyes and a lovely personable manner so I reckon he'll do well.

 

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Our afternoon game drive started off by heading towards the dam area. We spotted a kudu along the way, something we hadn't seen yet.

 

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And a dik-dik

 

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An elephant came out to say hello.

 

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The bush here is more challenging for photography, but it had some lovely hues to it and I appreciated it more as the week went on.

 

At the dam there were a few hippos wallowing around and some birds, as well as plenty of impala.

 

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Sunset came too soon, as always, but then it is made up for by sundowners!

 

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On our way back there was a group of rhino, but it was just too dark for decent photographs. We were welcomed with drinks at the game on our return, time for a quick wash and then dinner in the boma area - all candlelit and lovely. The guides sit with their guests and it is all very sociable.

Edited by JulieM
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Chad's plan for the next day was to try to find the wild dogs that had been sighted the night before. Billy and I were very excited about possibly seeing wild dogs again so were very happy to be hightailing it past the impalas and buffalos on the way to where they had been seen. Just before we got there they had killed a steenbuck and the pack had finished it off pretty quickly before heading into the middle of some tricky terrain. There was a truck that was up on a ridge that could see our truck and Keith's truck trying to find them again and he was able to direct us until we found them. Some hyenas were giving them a hard time and we followed along, driving off road through bush and trees, hanging on tight! I loved it! They are so quick and always on the move. Eventually they ended up at a waterhole for a drink before heading off into the distance. It was a great sighting that lasted for most of the morning's drive. We headed back to the lodge for lunch and a siesta, well pleased with our morning!

 

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Actually, I have mis-remembered! It wasn't home for lunch. Morning game drives finish around 9.30 and you go straight to breakfast. Lunch isn't until 2pm, so there is actually a long period of time in-between drives. I think Billy did a walk with Chad and the rest of the people in the truck that morning, but other days we watched movies on my iPad and had a sleep. It was very different from Kenya, where we would have a picnic breakfast and then not be back at camp until coming up for midday, or we would have all day game drives. Still, for us, as we were at the end of our holiday, it was quite a relaxing way to finish up.

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I'm glad you decided to do this report after all - beautiful pics, and what a great wild dog sighting. I think that's not a Dikdik but a Steenbok there in your first post. 09:30 back is pretty early, though, when did afternoon start?

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I did debate with myself about whether it was a dikdik or a steenbok - thank you for setting me straight @@michael-ibk!

 

The afternoon drives started at 3.30 from memory, back by 7pm (or 7.30 if you are in Chad's car).

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Great wild dogs sighting and photos! We didn't have such a luck during our three days stay in Motswari :( Loved the atmosphere of the lodge and the evenings in the boma. How many people in the vehicle did you have on the game drives?

Edited by FlyTraveler
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you certainly have been blessed with your sightings @@JulieM

Motswari is a long time favourite of mine - and in the company of Chad too. What could be better.

Edited by Soukous
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Your decision to stay on for another safari segment was well rewarded!

 

Also, thanks for the links to the blogs, I haven't come across these yet.

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Great pictures, thanks for sharing. We'll be at Simbavati next year, and I noticed on the map, they are very close neighbors. Hope we'll be as lucky as you :)

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Dogs, dogs, and dogs! What a nice contrast right off the bat to what you likely saw in Kenya.

 

"We got a great price on Expedia" Just to verify--you booked Motswari on Expedia?

Edited by Atravelynn
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@@FlyTraveler - there were 6 of us for the first couple of days, and then 8 for the last few. We commandeered the back row so that I could at least shoot behind me if needed but it was challenging having so many people. Dinner in the boma was really lovely and I liked the involvement of the guides and management in the socialising. It must be a very long day for them though!

 

@@Atravelynn - we had seen dogs in Kenya but following them on a hunt like we did was heaps of fun. And yes, I booked Motswari on Expedia.

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Our next game drive was one of the best of our time in Motswari.

 

We started with a lovely kudu

 

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and then as we were driving along we heard a squirrel alarming calling. We stopped to watch the squirrel, but then Mbogeni spotted the cause of his concern - an African wildcat! It was right up in the middle of a tree looking most awkward! We had never seen one of these before and it's always great seeing something new.

 

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He quickly jumped down and we were delighted that he then sat down and posed for us for a while.

 

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Next up was the elephant bull having a dust bath.

 

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Chad then heard that a leopard with a kill had been found. He was tucked well down into some shrubbery and we had to wait our turn while another vehicle watched him. When we were first in place we couldn't see all that much but luckily for us he decided to move his rather large headless impala out of that area to safer ground. He dragged it along for a while, sussing out various options before choosing a tree to haul it up.

 

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Not a great photo but hubby got some video of the ascent (equally not all that great in quality but it is interesting to see how far up the tree he goes).

 

 

We left him to it as he was really too far up to watch anymore. There was quite a big buffalo herd in the area so we watched them for a bit, and not far from them was a rhino.

 

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So we are 4/5 of the big five….until this male lion was seen making it the full big 5 on one game drive!

 

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He half-heartedly called for his coalition brothers and tolerated our presence for a while.

 

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Next thing he jumped up and walked right over to the car, veered in front of it and I swear he brushed the legs of Mbogeni who was still in the trackers chair! He had a limp and quite a withered back leg but got along quite well.

 

It was a great game drive and we were late back as usual but well pleased!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@@JulieM : What a treat - a wild cat, a leopard with a kill and a male lion in the same day, actually on the same drive! Great photos, keep them coming!

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Dogs, dogs, and dogs! What a nice contrast right off the bat to what you likely saw in Kenya.

 

"We got a great price on Expedia" Just to verify--you booked Motswari on Expedia?

 

Lynn, I booked Motswari on hotels.com for $180 US p.p.p.n. (!) some of the lodges in the private parks around Kruger are all over the booking portals now days - booking.com, agoda.com, hotels.com, expedia.com etc.

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Thanks for the booking infor @@FlyTraveler and JulieM.

 

"So we are 4/5 of the big five." That African Wild Cat should give you bonus points for 4.33 of 5. The photo in the tree is really interesting.

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@@JulieM you had some nice sightings! Chad is a legend, waiting for more of your report :D

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Lynn, I booked Motswari on hotels.com for $180 US p.p.p.n

 

@FlyTraveler That seems incredible value: full board all activities?

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We headed off next morning, as always, excited for the day ahead. It was a bit chilly in the open vehicles, but nothing that a blanket and some warm sunshine couldn't fix!

 

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The most we could see initially were some buffalo. I'm still trying to get a good shot of an oxpecker on an animal...

 

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We were on a leopard hunt. Intermittently Chad and Mbogeni would hop out of the vehicle and go wandering into the bush - doing secret guide-business I think - but probably looking at poo! Chad dropped Mbogeni off to track the leopard on foot, armed only with his smarts and a walkie-talkie. Billy was most concerned about the young bloke's welfare, but he seemed happy enough to go adventuring into the bush alone. The leopard was eventually spotted in some bush on the side of a very steep hill and Chad managed to freak me right out with some *adventurous* manoeuvring on what I felt was the edge of a cliff! Now I had been completely relaxed when my girlfriend @@AugustineM had her encounter with the lion in Kenya and unfazed when the elephants snuck up on us but when the leopard took off down into the gully, I feared that we were going to follow him down which did manage to awaken my nerves! Sitting on the backseat, perched right up high and hanging on for dear life, it seemed like a mad idea and I was just about the jump ship when Chad finally hit reverse. Of course I know we were in very safe hands, but still…...

 

There were fleeting glimpses of the leopard across the gully and we drove around to try to catch him on the other side without success. Mbogeni survived his bush adventure and we got back to driving around when suddenly on the road ahead, there he was! It was a brief sighting, but a leopard sighting is always good!

 

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The afternoon game drive netted us another wild dog sighting. They were more sedate this time, hanging around one area before relaxing in the grass.

 

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We rounded out the day spending a bit of time with some elephants in the river bed.

 

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Loving the TR and the pictures, you really had a wonderful trip!

 

I noticed one of the wild dogs is wearing a collar, is that for tracking or a different reason, do you know?

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@@JulieM Motswari really turned it on for you with the leopard and wild dog sightings, to say nothing of AWC.

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Lynn, I booked Motswari on hotels.com for $180 US p.p.p.n

 

@FlyTraveler That seems incredible value: full board all activities?

 

 

That's right! Full board with drinks (too bad I don't drink alcohol while on safari) and two game drives a day. Never seen such a low price since then... The only catch was that I paid the full price at the time of booking, 9 months in advance.

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