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A lot of spotted cats and not only :)


bettel
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michael-ibk

Super cool, a sighting the rest of us can only dream about. Very lucky you! :-)

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Peter Connan

Wow @@bettel, what a drive! Wonderful sightings.

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Alexander33

When we were in Sabi Sands (not Kirkman's) two years ago, we (only half-jokingly) started every drive by saying we'd like to see a pangolin. Never worked for us! I guess you have a certain magic in your voice, @@bettel. What a phenomenal experience!

 

I think it's in the book Never a Dull Moment by Paddy Hagelthorn, recounting his adventures in guiding at Savanna Lodge, where he tells of a drive that went much like yours. A guest requested a leopard in a tree, and around the next bend, there was a leopard in a tree. Encouraged, another guest requested a pangolin, and then, not 5 minutes later, guess what? And so it went for the remainder of the afternoon. As I recall, he remarks that it was perhaps the most singular drive of his career.

 

I'l have to go back and re-read that passage (and I hope my memory isn't playing tricks on me), but It sounds like you appropriately relished the moment just as he did.

 

And, yes, I am totally envious!

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Great ride finding the pangolin and able to take so many shots. The owl was kind of cute as well.

 

Every day brought riches to your game drives :)

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Wow! What a fantastic drive - pangolin and honey badger. The pangolin close ups are great! And so are the leopards! It may have been a short trip (not that short in my book) but it was packed full of wonderful sightings!

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Thank you everybody for reading the report! It motivates to continue.

 



Never a Dull Moment by Paddy Hagelthorn

 

Thank you for the book reference! I love books written by guides or people that work close to wild animals!

 

 



When we were in Sabi Sands (not Kirkman's) two years ago, we (only half-jokingly) started every drive by saying we'd like to see a pangolin. Never worked for us! I guess you have a certain magic in your voice, @@bettel. What a phenomenal experience!

You should continue trying :), it does not work all the time with me either (I wish, it did!). Haha, but I was joking with JP that now I want mating pangolins, no pressure :). Well, maybe one day it will work.

 



Wow! What a fantastic drive - pangolin and honey badger. The pangolin close ups are great! And so are the leopards! It may have been a short trip (not that short in my book) but it was packed full of wonderful sightings!

It was a great safari for sure. And actually not that short as I found that if you spend 11 hours on drives every day you have very long and emotional days. So subjectively it feels as if a trip were much longer.

 

 

Day 5. Morning.

 

It was another very memorable morning because we went to a freshly opened wild dog den. I was not hoping for a lot because there were a lot of rules around the den:

  1. Vehicles are allowed to be there only when adults (not only alpha female) are there

  2. Vehicles are allowed only in the morning

  3. Only one vehicle at a time

  4. And for 20 minutes


Also pups were only three week old so they did not spend a lot of time outside: a few minutes here and there. To summarize the probability was against us, but we still tried. We left the camp earlier to make sure that we were first in line :).

 

As we were approaching the den we heard pups :). It was already worth to make a trip. And as soon as we parked alpha female started to call them and suddenly they were out. With binocular we could see it pretty clearly despite thickets around the den. But camera was not so cooperative. People with good imagination can try to find pups on photos below.

This one has alpha female on it with a few pups under her (you can see their back, oh well, or maybe you can’t :) )

 

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And here you can see a very blurry picture of one brave pup:

 

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Pups spent maybe 5 minutes outside and disappeared in the den. We waited little bit more just watching adults browsing around and then it was time to leave so that other people can use their chance.

 

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Haha, there was a surprise: the alpha female blocked the road so that we could not drive out (who would complain?):

 

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So we had to wait for her to change the location only then we could continue the drive:

 

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And then Xovonikela was found. He either killed or stole a baby waterbuck. The carcass was on a tree and Xovo was resting nearby. He was pretty close to the ideal shape (which is round :) )

 

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But he was still eyeing the carcass:

 

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Couple times he stood up to change the location. One time he actually lied down right near the car so we had to change our location to make sure that he would not get under:

 

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We had a nice breakfast with him. I think sandwich becomes automatically much more delicious when you can watch a beautiful cat while eating :)

 

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SafariChick

Wow Wow Wow! What a fantastic safari this was. Definitely making me thing about a return to the Sabi Sands - my one trip there was at Londolozi which was also great for leopards, but you saw SO many leopards, and the wild dog pups and the pangolin and honey badger in one drive?! All I can say is, call me next time you're going on safari and I want to book to be in your vehicle!

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@@bettel

 

What a great day; dogs, pups and leopard in one day (the leopard is gorgeous) I did not have such luck in Sabi Sands; but we were very new to safari life, and when we came upon a den of dogs we did not even know how special a sighting it was. Lions were around, but no leopards....you really had a special safari with all your superb guiding. Pangolin, honey badgers....as @@Kitsafari said....call me :rolleyes: Perhaps a return is in store!

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@@SafariChick, @@graceland, I love safari at Sabi Sand but the more a learn about different reserves the more I understand how lucky I was with Kirkman in terms of guides knowledge and overall rules. E.g. a lot Lions Sand guides stay with sighting for only 5-10 minutes. In some Northern and Western reserve the rule is 20 minutes for sighting and you can't get back to line when you leave. In Sabi Sabi you can't respond to a cat sighting second time :(.

 

I have fully paid trip to Serian in September (MNC) and I booked safari to OMC and Ol Kinyei with Porini in February. It will be very interesting to compare experience :)

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Day 5. Afternoon.

 

We went straight to Xovonekela. I mean we had not expected anything from a fat lazy leopard on a kill but it was still nice to be near such a magnificent animal (and yes I am cat addicted person). We were so wrong. Xovo made a miracle and somehow managed to stuff himself with the waterbuck. When we left in the morning Xovo was already very fat and there was still more than 50% of the carcass hanging on the tree. So I swear there might be a parallel universe in Xovo’s stomach. He was crunching a hoof when we arrived and only small piece of skin was left other than this.

 

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Suddenly Xovo stood up, took the skin and started to move. We decided that he made sure that he was not going to starve while patrolling lol:

 

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From time to time he stopped to rest, it was amazing that he actually could move with such a big belly. He was also helping himself with the skin:

 

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Sometimes I think that leopards know exactly how to get rid of people if they want. Xovo went straight to a dry riverbed (it is forbidden to drive there) and then he stopped and almost smiled “Stupid people, you can’t follow me here!”. We drove along the river and we lost him. As the last option Eckson suggested to go back and check one viewpoint and I somehow managed to notice Xovo under the bush. He was pretty far but it was still nice to be with him. At 3:30 other guests started the drive and we had to leave (well, we spent two hours with him :) )

 

We continued the drive. I added this group of baboons on the dry riverbed so that I don’t have only leopards photos :)

 

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Very soon another male leopard was found. His name is West Street and he is young but he is getting more and more confident. JP thinks that he is more beautiful than Xovo. I think that Xovo is the best, but West Street is a magnificent cat.

 

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And not only he is beautiful but he is very well trained lol. He walked on roads and stopped every 5-10 minutes to make sure that everybody got there photos. “I am sexy and I know it”:

 

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As he was walking he was getting closer and closer to Xovo’s territory and we were curious what he would do. Soon he reached the point where Xovo had marked the night before. He was smelling it very attentively:

 

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And then he was thinking for a long time. 5 minutes, maybe more. Should he go back, should he continue?

 

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And then suddenly he started to rub his face against this bush, doing this very very persistently. JP told that this was a leopard way to show a middle finger. I guess the conflict is coming. But as of now West Street moved forward little bit and crossed the river soon, leaving Xovo’s area:

 

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It was a perfect evening with two handsome men leopards lol

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That last shot is pretty unique (and very well done). Can't get enough leopards, keep them coming!

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they are both gorgeous hunks! west street looks hulky and mascular, so it'll be a huge battle if the two come to blows. hopefully not though, i wouldn't want either to be injured. Your TR definitely makes Kirkman's a great choice to stay for ST-ers!

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@betel Two very fine male leopards and very cooperative for your photographs............... Wonderful. Xovo looks notably bulkier than West Street, so the retreat was probably a wise move.

 

To see those tiny wild dog pups is special and it is great that she called them out while the vehicle was there. What an exciting trip!

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That last shot is pretty unique (and very well done). Can't get enough leopards, keep them coming!

Thank you. There was a beautiful 4 meter leap from stone to stone before this, but it was already too dark for my lens :(

 

 

they are both gorgeous hunks! west street looks hulky and mascular, so it'll be a huge battle if the two come to blows. hopefully not though, i wouldn't want either to be injured. Your TR definitely makes Kirkman's a great choice to stay for ST-ers!

I love Kirkman's Kamp but I would be cautious to just recommend it as there were "normal" Sabi Sands radio talks and sightings limitations (e.g. necessity to leave sighting if somebody else is in line). I did not have too much problem with those as I do like to know what else is found :) and I had a private car to be able to spend more time with animals when everybody else are already done or don't start yet. But I can imagine how somebody can be frustrated.

 

 

Beautiful sightings.

Thank you.

 

@betel Two very fine male leopards and very cooperative for your photographs............... Wonderful. Xovo looks notably bulkier than West Street, so the retreat was probably a wise move.

 

To see those tiny wild dog pups is special and it is great that she called them out while the vehicle was there. What an exciting trip!

Thank you. It was a very exciting trip.

 

Day 6. Morning.

 

There was again a slow start as we were waiting to traverse to Lion Sands (only two cars are allowed to traverse at the same time). Schotia female leopard and her cub were found on Lion Sands the day before. But with a wild dog den being on there everybody wanted to traverse. At the end we made our way there and it was worth to wait :). Here is an 11 month old Schotia ‘s cub:

 

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Schotia was sleeping under the tree, till hyenas arrived:

 

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Then she immediately climbed the tree:

 

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Her daughter continued to watch from the branch she was resting on:

 

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After spending some with leopards we went to quickly check on lions as those were Charleston boys that I have a soft spot for :). Boys were sleeping and we had our breakfast with them:

 

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After initial check on who we were and why we were :), they never even moved an ear :). It is nice to be on the top of the food chain.

 

After the breakfast we went back to leopards. The cub decided to walk to the nearest waterhole to have a drink.

 

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On the other side of the small waterhole there was a group of 10 dagga boys. I was afraid that they would start to chase a leopard and JP told that they would not cross water for this. But they were watching the cub very attentively:

 

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20 seconds later they suddenly turned and ran straight at us. Lol, I almost peed my pants. It was probably pretty similar feeling to standing in front of an avalanche, but they never touched the car. JP told that during the day when they see well they would avoid the collision. It is in the dark when buffaloes might hit the vehicle as they don’t see quite well.

 

The cub was impressed with her power :). She was just sitting and watching the show, but then she drank:

 

DSC_1089_zpsymnbg1jr.jpg

 

 

At 11 we went back to lodge.

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Peter Connan

I would swop a whole safari for a morning like this! Wonderful!

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Very nice shot of a handsome, relatively "unspotted" hyena.

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The mum and cub leopard are stunning!

 

I'm so enjoying your narrative. you are so infectious with your humour and you are having such a blast that I'm having such a blast too just reading and seeing the animals.

 

the charleston boys are much bigger now!

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martywilddog

@@bettel, again, I'm so green with envy :) Your trip reports of Kruger are the best!

 

do you mind sharing how much extra a private vehicle costs at Kirkman's? I'm one of those people who could get very annoyed in a car with too many, especially if there are other - lets call it - "strong" characters in it. So definitely something i would consider for at least 1 day! (even more so if we could take a pick nick lunch then and just stay out).

 

In regards to your post #34, I first looked into Kenya for our honeymoon and was super excited about the Porini camps! The value for money seemed great! What was the cherry on the cake for me though was to add on a few nights at Brian Freeman's camp at the end (on recommendation from this forum). He by the way doesn't have a single supplement! I'm not exactly sure again when you are going, but when I asked for early Jan 2016 he said his camp was not set up around christmas but he offered up his home/house in the Mara which is 10min from his camp for private use for 285£ pppn (about 400€, not sure in current dollars)! WIth a private vehicle included and all park fees! (and of course all meals and such)

 

I am still so sad we have to say no to this trip :-( But the attack yesterday again in Mandera has my fiancé running for the hills at increased speed. I hope things calm down at some point (soon) in Kenya because I have my perfect safari lined up there! (hear me talk like i'm some kind of expert, i still have to set my first steps on African soil :P I research is what I mean).

 

Anyway, your trip reports lift my spirits and hope that we will also have an amazing honeymoon in South Africa!

 

I can't wait to read the next installment!

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I would swop a whole safari for a morning like this! Wonderful!

I can't complain :). This was an excellent safari for somebody who adore cats.

 

 

Very nice shot of a handsome, relatively "unspotted" hyena.

 

Thank you!

 

 

I'm so enjoying your narrative. you are so infectious with your humour and you are having such a blast that I'm having such a blast too just reading and seeing the animals.

Thank you very much!

 

Charlestons are growing a lot. I think they will be beautiful males when they are 6-7 years old.

 

 

do you mind sharing how much extra a private vehicle costs at Kirkman's? I'm one of those people who could get very annoyed in a car with too many, especially if there are other - lets call it - "strong" characters in it. So definitely something i would consider for at least 1 day! (even more so if we could take a pick nick lunch then and just stay out).

 

It is 5,500 ZAR per day. I think it is totally worth it, but I am subjective :). I am not a professional photographer so I don't care if the light is bad in the middle of the day, I just love to be outside and I always hate to stay in the camp/lodge and do nothing. The other thing I don't like to travel between sightings a lot. I like to spend hours with the same animal. Private vehicle allows you to stay out as much as you want and to do whatever you want. Saying this I don't think one day will give you the opportunity to have a lunch outside. Private vehicle time is from 2 pm to 11 am. So if you pay for one day you have half day and half day.

 

 

In regards to your post #34, I first looked into Kenya for our honeymoon and was super excited about the Porini camps! The value for money seemed great! What was the cherry on the cake for me though was to add on a few nights at Brian Freeman's camp at the end (on recommendation from this forum). He by the way doesn't have a single supplement! I'm not exactly sure again when you are going, but when I asked for early Jan 2016 he said his camp was not set up around christmas but he offered up his home/house in the Mara which is 10min from his camp for private use for 285£ pppn (about 400€, not sure in current dollars)! WIth a private vehicle included and all park fees! (and of course all meals and such)

 

Thank you!!! I was looking at this camp, the only thing that stopped me is the fact that it is National Park. I can't imagine safari without being able to go off road now :). I booked 3 nights at Porini Mara and 7 nights at Porini Lion :)

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Day 6. Afternoon.

 

We went straight to Schotia. I mean if you know where you can find two leopards why not to go and not to find them :). When we arrived Scotia was feeding on the carcass and then she was resting:

 

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The cub also went for some snack as soon as Schotia was done with her meal. JP parked the car pretty close to the tree (but far enough so that neither carcass, nor leopards could fall into the car :) ) and suggested to lie down on the seat. It was amazing! Not only it was much more comfortable but the perspective is totally different. I mean it is pure magic to have leaves, clouds, blue sky and LEOPARD above your head.

 

Some cleaning after the meal:

 

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The cub is so beautiful! (lol I have not seen an ugly leopard yet)

 

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Schotia is also an amazing cat:

 

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And cub again:

 

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And then hyenas came again. It seemed they werechecking on leopards every hour or so. But Scotia did her job really well and carcass was almost rolled round branches.

 

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Schotia was watching hyenas from the tree:

 

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But cub suddenly descended. I started to get nervous and got prepared to throw my camera if hyenas decided to attack (yeah, yeah, I know you are not supposed to interfere, but logic prefers not to wake up when my emotions talk J). JP calmed me down saying that the cub needed a split second to go back on tree and that hyenas had no chance. Curious cub:

 

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Hyenas came closer and cub teleported back to safe :):

 

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And back to ground (but she was checking what her mom was doing):

 

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Hyenas:

 

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Hyenas left and the cub got totally relaxed:

 

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During the rest of the drive we saw a rhino. Actually we saw quite a few rhinos during my stay but somehow we saw them either when we had a goal or rhinos were in bushes:

 

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Later in the evening Xovo was found. Or to be exact the guy who found him did not know what leopard it was but as soon as we arrived both JP and I simultaneously told that it was Xovo. I don’t know what JP’s trick is, but I recognized Xovo by the size of his belly:

 

DSC_1218_zpsojbri2lz.jpg

 

The rest of the night we spent with him.

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martywilddog

Wow, @@bettel, that's a lot for a private car! That makes Brian Freeman's camp really a steal! At the same price you have everything + private vehicle. If I were you I would have a look at @@FlyTraveler's trip report on Kenya! He loved Porini, but liked Freeman's even more! (unless all is booked and fixed, than I guess it doesn't make so much sense ;-) )

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It is not cheap for sure. The price is pretty much the same in Mara private conservancies ($300 to $375 USD which is 3750 to 4700 ZAR). It is cheaper in Mara itself (where Freeman's camp is) but then there are more tourists there and you are not allowed to go off road. I would prefer to pay more for less amount of people around and for off roading :)

 

Thank you for trip report reference! I think only trip reports help me to survive between trips :)

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Very photogenic leopards.

This one in particular offers such a clear look at its face:

 

 


DSC_1182_zpska7anjc3.jpg

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Day7. Morning.


The morning was pretty slow. We were driving around and following up on alarm calls but there was no predator. It was actually pretty funny as it almost looked like as if impalas just alarmed on everything including our car. And then they were grazing as if it was not them lol. Some of them were raising their heads, alarmed and immediately continued to graze.


We came across a few elephants in rose morning light:


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After we failed to find a cat we just went to the a dog den :). Theoretically the rule was one visit per guest per stay. But as I was at Kirkman for 8 nights they allowed me to come more but only after everybody else had chance to take a look (late morning :) ). It was a good deal as I was not in hurry anyway :). Dogs were at home and it seemed they had a successful hunt (they were all covered in blood)


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We did not see pups that time, but adults were browsing around very close. One of them actually lied right under Eckson. I would say the distance between Eckson leg and one of dogs was less than a meter. It is amazing that these animals trust people so much.


After dogs we went to Schotia. She was alone (or maybe cub was sleeping somewhere in the bush). We had our breakfast with her:


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