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bushmaniac

@@kittykat23uk

 

Although the game would have occurred naturally in the past, a lot of it is now having to be reintroduced. Tswalu started off as a collection of over-grazed farms and the vision now is to restore it to its natural state. The sable and roan are in a breeding program and all the sable and roan you see in the main area are males. The male lions I think we're brought in from Etosha. I remember the wild dog were reintroduced just a year or two back.

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Day 3   This morning we went out earlier and visited one of the main meerkat colonies. Easily spent over an hour sitting near the burrow whilst the meerkats warmed themselves and kept lookout.  

Day 4   It was time to venture over to the smaller section and give the lions a go. The other guides had lost them the previous afternoon, and there were many discussions about where to look for the

Day 2   It was cold but the vehicles have the best ever blankets, real quality (if I’d had space in my holdall I would have asked to buy mine!) – big enough to wrap around fully and cover from head

Beautiful elder ardvark images. Such kind eyes.

 

Surprising to hear of pangolin chaos. Have had the opposite experiences in guests uninterested in staying to observe them ( which was fine by me!)

 

What has become of the second wild dog pack ? Did they relocate them ?

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@bushmaniac Saviour of the pangolin. Unfortunately sightings tend to be so rare that many get guides and others behaving a bit badly. I think I would feel like you but, fortunately, I guess sightings are so rare that pangolins are little affected by it.

 

This just sounds so great this far. Amazing that you didn't take any pictures for a whole day but I guess good for you too. Are you sure you're not missing a card?

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madaboutcheetah

@@bushmaniac - Great report!!! Thanks so much .........

Quick question - did you get a chance to chat to the guides about Aardvark sightings outside of winter? What about the other months? Thanks ...........

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bushmaniac

apologies to everyone for the tardiness in my posts - just started a new job which requires a commute of up to 6 hours a day and struggling to find the time during the week. :(

 

@@pault

 

he he - guess I must've just been relaxed and enjoying myself. I use two camera bodies with a 64gb card in each - pretty sure I'm not missing one :unsure:

 

@madaboutcheetah

 

Sorry, we didn't discuss this. But I've been keeping in contact with a few of the guides, so will ask them and let you know.

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bushmaniac

Day 6

 

The cloud covered cleared quickly this morning but it was freezing! Following last night’s rain, there was little out and about in the morning. But the landscape is such that you can just drive around for hours and not realise the time.

 

Guess what – in the afternoon we went looking for aardvark yet again, and found another three. One of them, a young male found very near to the lodge, was just as relaxed as the genteel old lady we’d seen a couple of days ago. So once again, we were able to spend an hour or so really closely following this amazing creature.

 

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Day 7

 

After six days of aardvarks, we decided it was now time to look for a pangolin of our own. We were hoping that, with all the rain a couple of days before, we would have no problem locating some tracks. Where else can you say to the guide/tracker “we want to look for pangolin today” and have them smile and say “no problem”?

 

Once again, whilst we had anticipated returning for breakfast around 10h30, we actually go back to the lodge at lunchtime. The hardest decision was whether to order from the breakfast or lunch menus.

 

At lunchtime today a group of 17 arrived, which included 8 children. Anyone who knows me will shudder at the thought. However, the lodge were really good in discussing with us where we wanted to dine in the evenings – inside, outside on main deck, outside on smaller deck, boma etc so that we were not disturbed by the children running around. Again, as guests depart for game-drive at different times, there was no massive congregation in the lounge or car park.

 

There are so many fresh tracks of every creature imaginable, except not a single pangolin track.

 

And, as usual, the bat-eared foxes took off the minute they saw us.

 

 

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bushmaniac

Day 8

 

As we were nearing the end of our stay, we decided that today was to be yet another all day drive, taking packed breakfast and lunch with us.

 

We started the day off with a trip to the Wild Dog den hoping to find the pups out and about. If our luck was in they might move into a patch of sunlight, rather than staying in the shade of the trees. It wasn’t to be. Our guide struggled to understand our requirements for positioning the vehicle, and the pups were rarely out of the shade, making decent photography nigh on impossible.

 

 

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Having spent the previous day driving around unsuccessfully searching for pangolin tracks in the larger section of the reserve, we then decided to cross over to the smaller section to try our luck.

 

It wasn’t long before we came across a lion pride on a warthog kill.

 

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We were beginning to slowly make our way back to the lodge when my friend Mike literally jumped over me and over the side of the moving vehicle. “It must be” was all I heard as he ran into the bush. The tracker quickly followed him and it wasn’t long before he returned with a gigantic grin and giving us the thumbs up – we’d finally found our own pangolin. This pangolin was much older than the first one we saw and also more relaxed.

 

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Whilst standing waiting for the guys doing the pangolin research, we suddenly noticed a caracal running across an open area of hillside. A few seconds was all we had and the split-second decision whether to watch and enjoy, or to try and catch a picture with the camera – the sighting won over taking a photo.

 

So we got to spend some good quality time with the pangolin, and only one other car came to view, with a guide (Nicky) who obviously had explained to her guests about being quiet and moving slowly and not crowding the animal – such a difference from the first sighting.

 

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The temperature drops dramatically as soon as the sun goes down. As it was late, and we were far from the lodge, we decided to be real cissies – the tracker climbed inside the vehicle, the windscreen went up to minimise the wind chill, the heater was on full blast and we snuggled down in our seats on the way back to the lodge.

 

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For dinner that evening Mike and I were joined by Russel Binks, the MD at Tswalu. He knew of Mike by reputation and recognized that we were seasoned safari-goers with considerable knowledge of the private-guided safari experience. His vision for Tswalu is to give guests, not just a private vehicle, but the additional services of a full private guide. He wanted to pick our brains and get our feedback on the lodge, game-drives and how he could bring the level of guiding up to that of a true private guided experience.

 

Tswalu is run with a mix of permanent and freelance guides. The permanent guides do not eat any meals with the guests, not even on boma nights. The guides’ role appears to start only when we get on the vehicle in the morning and end when we arrive back at the lodge in the evening. Our guide had no idea of how to position the vehicle, or even how to manoeuvre it. There was little communication from the guide – we would say what we would like to do, then the guide would talk to the tracker in their own language for ages, laugh a bit and then drive. No idea what their conversations were about, although we often felt they were talking about us. The service is better from the freelance guides, who do eat and/or socialise with their guests a little more, but probably less than they would if they were with their own guests on a private-guided safari as they take their cue from the lodge’s permanent guides. The lodge guides do have excellent knowledge of both the wildlife and Tswalu itself, but seem uncertain how to share this information with their guests.

 

(I have recently heard from Russel that, following our visit and feedback, the guides do now sit for some meals, serve drinks and are generally a lot more interactive with their guests.)

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I'm crushed that this truly amazing report has been going on and I have missed it until now!

Your aardvark photos are inspiring. It is a shame (and a bit surprising) that the initial pangolin sighting you describe was so chaotic. I'm very glad you were able to have a much more appropriate and intimate sighting subsequently.

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Towlersonsafari

What a splendid time you have had!-we have literally just got back from our own splendid three week trip-the start of which was trying to find Aardvark in the Eastern Cape-on the similar principle that when it is cold they can sometimes-or always in your case-be seen in daylight.

We saw some aardvark urine!!!!

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Tom Kellie

What a splendid time you have had!-we have literally just got back from our own splendid three week trip-the start of which was trying to find Aardvark in the Eastern Cape-on the similar principle that when it is cold they can sometimes-or always in your case-be seen in daylight.

We saw some aardvark urine!!!!

 

~ @Towleronsafari

 

Welcome back! I've been wondering how your safari was going.

Very glad to read that you had such a magnificent experience!

The idea of seeking aardvarks in daylight due to chilly temperatures is excellent.

Your comment about spotting aardvark urine is a delightful example of an only-in-Safaritalk remark — love it!

Happy that you've returned after such a fine experience!

Tom K.

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Kitsafari

@@bushmaniac so pleased for you that you found a pangolin to admire in a re respectful ambiance. And caracal?!! What a tough tough decision!

 

I'm also glad to hear that the lodge is looking to improve the guiding standard. Sounds promising for the camp, and for the wildlife and guests.

 

And if you can't hear it now, I'm totally jealous of all your sightings - meerkats, bat eared fox, aardvark, wild dog pups, aardvark, pangolin, aardvark, caracal, and aardvark again?! You bet there will be a long queue to tswalu now.

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Brilliant to see a Pangolin without the crowds - and the male Aardvark in the warm evening sunshine, twinkling in his eye - beautiful. (and the dogs, and the bat eared fox.....). Thank you for advising them on the guiding - in case we go on a future visit :)

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As a newbie to Africa, and to safari, there is one issue I have problems to understand.

 

The rate to stay in this lodge (taken just as an example) is ZAR 13000 , roughly 1000 US$ per person per night. It is an all-inclusive rate, including also "Private guide, vehicle, and tracker per booking – minimum 3 night stay " as per web site.

 

Why is it that guide, tracker, junior campo staff has to be tipped, i.e. paid separately/additionally? The total amount one person has to pay to stay in such a lodge is high enough to cover all the costs the lodge owners have, including manager, chef, etc and also those three that are mentioned in the lodge guidance for tipping:

 

"Lodge guidance for tipping (per person per day):

Guide – R300

Tracker – R200

Junior Camp Staff – R200"

 

20 US$ per day is not a high amount after one pays 1000 US$, however, wouldn't it be just easier that the amount should be included in the rate altogether?! Or I am at lost how different members of a lodge staff (cooks, management, room staff, field personnel) are paid?!

 

Thanks in advance for all and any clarification. So far my two trips were self guided, so no experience with giving a tip/paying extra were needed. Yet in the future I am planning to visit some places where using a guide/driver/tracker is necessary so should adapt to the local approaches in advance.

 

If a similar thread (about tipping/paying extra) is already active on Safaritalk, please be so kind and direct me there!

Edited by xelas
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madaboutcheetah

Not a tipping question, but a Tswalu question ...... What do they refer by "junior camp staff"? - general staff in camp? (butler, waiter etc etc.,)??? just curious as I've not seen the term before.

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bushmaniac

@@Towlersonsafari - whilst we didn't find aardvark urine, there was one day when our tracker got all excited and started digging .... our tracker had noticed the aardvark doing its business (which it then buried) so the tracker dug it up and collected a load of droppings in his hat to take back to show the other trackers :wacko: - apparently it's very rare to see or find aardvark poo.

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bushmaniac

@@madaboutcheetah

 

Tswalu has a bit of a strange setup in camp and it took a couple of days before we worked out who did what role. Whilst there are a few butlers, the majority of the serving of drinks, meals etc was done by the 'camp managers'. There are at least four of these managers and they aren't included in the "junior camp staff" - but as these guys gave the best service, made the most effort, and made a big difference to our stay I did tip them individually.

 

My understanding is that "junior camp staff" is everyone except the 'managers', guides and trackers.

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Towlersonsafari

You can go off people @@bushmaniac ! Our guide also looked for aardvark poo but although the earth was very warm we didn't find any.We think the aardvark heard us coming and ran for it! As our trip report will show we even had a specially keen aardvark terrier sniffing likely burrows!

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  • 4 weeks later...
Atravelynn

I have to copy and paste and analyze this piece by piece.

 

21) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings?

Just on the short drive from the airstrip to the lodge we saw two aardvark and an aardwolf. I had no idea of the frequency of aardvark sightings, nor of the quality. Tswalu is to aardvark what Londolozi is to leopards. To be sitting on the ground and have a relaxed aardvark walking within a couple of metres of you, is absolutely mind-blowing. Yes it is!

 

We saw meerkats, aardvarks (23 sightings, all during daylight hours) This looks like crazy talk.

 

pangolin (2 sightings), Can you comment on how common or how unusual it is to see a pangolin? After delving into your amazing report, I have a better idea of pangolin sightings and the "enthusiasm" their rarity generates. To find the pangolin of your own had to be thrilling.

 

black-maned lions, definitely plural, what a handsome pair you saw.

 

aardwolf, a prize in its own right

 

sable, roan, These are huge drawing cards on their own without all the other species.

 

eland, tssessebe, oryx, springbok, duiker, reedbuck, impala, kudu, nyala, yellow mongoose, slender mongoose, wild dog pups, cheetah & cubs, African wildcat,

caracal, How about the caracal? Can you comment on how common or how unusual it is to see a caracal?

 

 

bat-eared foxes, black and white rhino, mountain zebra.

There have been reported sightings of the yellow morph of the crimson breasted shrike, but we didn’t find it. Probably because you were always occupied with the aardvark.

 

22) How was the standard of guiding?

OK, but could have been better. The guide was personal and pleasant, but didn’t volunteer much information or make suggestions as to where to go. However, the friend I travelled with is also a qualified guide, so we were able to ask the right questions, tell our guide where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see. So we made all the decisions, rather than the guide. Very surprising and disappointing. I did not expect this. The guide and tracker were always willing to spend all day out in the bush.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

What a splendid time you have had!-we have literally just got back from our own splendid three week trip-the start of which was trying to find Aardvark in the Eastern Cape-on the similar principle that when it is cold they can sometimes-or always in your case-be seen in daylight.

We saw some aardvark urine!!!!

And I saw tracks. Urine trumps tracks. But 23 trumps it all!

 

 

 

Another question for you @@bushmaniac, how far in advance did you book? Sorry if I missed it.

Edited by Atravelynn
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I was planning to go for seven days but I think I'm going to book for ten days to take advantage of the 5 for 4 offer.

@@bushmaniac did you see honey badgers or leopards? You didn't mention the cheetahs in the list of animals that you saw.

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