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Simon & Jane's Excellent ( South African) Adventure


Towlersonsafari

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Towlersonsafari

We have recently got back from a 3 week self-drive to South Africa, our 5th such trip and 12th overall, but our first since discovering the fun that is Safaritalk.Having read so many fine and different Trip Reports it is with some trepidation that I begin ours. Please, if reading this, kindly remember that my talents as a photographer, that I like to think I have honed nicely over the years, largely consist of getting way to excited, forgetting to turn the camaera on, not removing lens caps, not checking if I have cancelled exposure compensation and having the wrong lens on the camera in the first place.When driving I have used this trip to add another skill-wrapping the camera strap round the gear stick. when I am in form, I can do all the above in one attempt to photograph an exciting sighting several times a drive. It keeps Jane amused.

Our itinary-

2 nights Mount Zebra San Parks

3 nights Samara Game Reserve

(fly to Cape town from Port Elizabeth)

1 night Cape Town

3 nights Naries (near Springbok)

2 nights Augrabies Falls San Parks

9 nights KTP

(fly from Upington to Jo-berg and then home via Heathrow)

 

 

We wanted to visit the Eastern Cape to have a good go at seeing Aardvarks in daylight,(being mildly obsessed) and although circumstances meant that we were later in the winter than we would have liked, it did allow us to re-visit Namaqualand in the flower season, and of course the KTP is a wonderful place and this would be our third visit there.

San Parks must surely represent some of the best value wildlife watching anywhere, and we have never had a bad experience with the accomadation.It is always clean, a bit tatty round the edges, but is serviced everyday .I am not allowed near sharp implements or fire, and Jane is a veggie, so not for us the wonderful world of camping-although those tents attatched to 4 x 4 's look so wonderful, with all the gadgets etc. I know that if I was ever in a Roof tent, I would forget and fall off within the first night.

Our hopes on setting out?-to see an Aardvark, to see a Leopard as we have on all our other trips, for me not to fall over and break something (last time in SA I broke both elbows tripping up a step) but mainly, to do what we love best-having fun watching, or trying to find, wildlife,

did we see an Aardvark?, was a leopard one of the 4 species of cat spotted? did Jane lead me across treacherous rocks over a ravine in what she described as an "easy to moderate" walk?

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One of the most intriguing encounters one can have in the KTP, is with the stationary vehicle. As you are spotting, looking for clues,for a twitch of the ear or a puff of dust, you suddenly see a stat

We have recently got back from a 3 week self-drive to South Africa, our 5th such trip and 12th overall, but our first since discovering the fun that is Safaritalk.Having read so many fine and differe

Some more photos of Namaqualand,

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Except for the Aardvark those are wonderfully modest goals. I always look forward to more info about KTP as I've never even considered going there.

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michael-ibk

Great you are doing a trip report, looking forward to it very much. Especially interested in Augrabies and KTP where I´m going next May. You kinda spoilt the Aardvark suspense in that other thread, didn´t you? ;)

 

I hope you came through this trip unharmed indeed. Both elbows? Ouch!

 

4 cats? Sounds good. :)

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Towlersonsafari

MOUNT ZEBRA

We used Lawsons Specialist Birding to help with the trip a South African company who we have spoken to a few times at the Birdfair in Rutland.They were very helpful with comments on the trip,timings etc and gave good instructions on routes.Anyone who can should go to the Birdfair-a wonderland of holiday companies,tourist boards charities and Art covering the whole world! It took about 4 hours to drive from Port Elizabeth to Mount Zebra, as there were a few roadworks, so we did not have time to buy supplies and make sure we got to the reception on time.The restaurant was surprisingly good and the staff very helpful.Hot water bottles helped with the cold nights!

 

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Our First Black Wildebeast

 

 

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Towlersonsafari

post-47279-0-64023700-1441919237_thumb.jpgpost-47279-0-95023100-1441919425_thumb.jpgThanks for the comments-as to if we saw an Aardvark...stay tuned.....Mount Zebra is a beautiful park, grassland mountains in the distance, and some nice woodland.We saw, for the first time, Black Wildebeest, Cape Zebra Mountain Reedbuck and Blesbok. .The Rooiplaat loop is good for plains game,Ubejane loop follows the river and we saw Black Rhino there-from a distance, and some skittish meercats Zebra and Kudu.The Kranskop loop was good for Mountain Reedbuck..You could easily spend 3 nights here.Alas the night drives were not running-vehicle being serviced! No chance of Aardvarks here.

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Towlersonsafari

Some more photo's



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To give an idea of the Park


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You've already got me laughing from the first paragraph. This should be a good one!

 

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I really like this picture.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Towlersonsafari

 

Somehow I knew that this would be one of ‘those’ trip reports — the sort which are great fun to read and have images causing one to pine for being back on safari.

What you've posted thus far is delightful!

Black wildebeests! Love the images of them!

Thank you for laying out the itinerary above. Now I know that there's much fun yet to come.

With Gratitude and Anticipation,

Tom K.

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@@Towlersonsafari

 

Glad you have decided to post your trip report. KTP in February, and who knows, maybe CT and around in summer, so I will give it my special attention. Keep it spiced with those funny stories!

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Towlersonsafari

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@@Tom Kellie you are much too kind.Thanks everyone for the encouragement. To continue, Although with self-driving you don't see as much, as you don't have the benefit of a professional guide, there are compensations. You can debate out loud the merits of Black and Blue Wildebeest (I prefer the strangeness of the Black, Jane thinks the Black's horns are just too wrong!) A sighting you spot yourself is extra special, and you can say "Hello Mr Springbok" without attracting too much ridicule. Unless it's a Blesbok . We will definitely be back to Mount Zebra, but first we will check the Park's night drive's vehicle's servicing schedule.

 

Samara Private Game Reserve

 

An easy 3.5 hour drive from Mount Zebra, if you follow the simple instructions your safari company give you.But if you think that the road you are on must be the wrong one, and make up an different route, you can add a good two hours to your journey. If, instead ofd using your trusty road map, but use your phone's Sat Nav cos its all shiny and talks too you, you can with no small irony end up at the San Parks vehicle repair shop, at Graaf Reinet! Still sanity prevailed we looked at the trusty map and worked out where we should be going and we got to Samara in time for cake and the afternoon drive.

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Towlersonsafari

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Samara is a large private reserve, where according to their website, Aardvarks can be found, in daylight. It is also a very beautiful reserve with mountains, mountain grasslands , sandy river flood plains and signs of Aardvarks everywhere.It has cheetah some radio collared and one with a very interesting story. The food was wonderful and the staff very friendly and helpful.We even got a hug when we left. Although that may have been relief.The guide Jan, was probably the most enthusiastic we have met and entered into the spirit of our Aardvark quest.Even to the extent, with our agreement, of enrolling his Jack Russell for the start of one drive to sniff at likely holes. A very friendly Dutch couple were also staying there-it was the reserve's quiet season so the four of us were the only guests. Drives were very flexible, and Jan offered to take us out at any time.Including after the evening meal to sit by an aardvark hole that seemed a likely candidate.That is why one evening found us with our hats and gloves, fleeces, a duvet, and several hot water bottles each in wait coiled like springs.Very cold, very rusty springs.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Towlersonsafari

 

The photo of the Samara room is lovely! So much so that it inspired me to look up more about Samara.

The colors and furnishings are especially appealing, considering that it's located in aardvark country.

I laughed aloud when seeing the “man and terrier in an aardvark hole” image.

Who says that only ostriches have such behavior? Ha!

Tom K.

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Even to the extent, with our agreement, of enrolling his Jack Russell for the start of one drive to sniff at likely holes. A very friendly Dutch couple were also staying there-it was the reserve's quiet season so the four of us were the only guests. Drives were very flexible, and Jan offered to take us out at any time.Including after the evening meal to sit by an aardvark hole that seemed a likely candidate.That is why one evening found us with our hats and gloves, fleeces, a duvet, and several hot water bottles each in wait coiled like springs.Very cold, very rusty springs.

 

Sounds like you definitely put some work in!

 

Curious to hear the urine story in full.

Edited by Marks
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Towlersonsafari

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Thanks @@Marks more on Aardvark urine later! I know that opinions differ about naming animals, and how much to interfere. One of Our first drives was to see a cheetah with a kill-a tracker had reported in. It turned out to be an old (14) female called Sibella, and here I repeat what Samara says about her (hope thats all right-it is on their website)

"Born wild in South Africa’s North West province, Sibella’s life nearly ended at the hands of hunters when she was only two years old. Set upon by dogs that tore the flesh from her hind legs, she was savagely beaten and locked in a cage. Lying at death’s door, she was fortunate enough to be rescued by the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust. She owes her life to the five-hour surgery and dedicated rehabilitation that ensued.

In December 2003, she began a new chapter in her life when she was released onto Samara Private Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet. Since then, she has surpassed all expectations. Outliving most cheetah in the wild, she has proved herself to be a capable hunter despite her previous injuries. Successfully rearing an astonishing 20 cubs in four litters since her release, she has also been an exemplary mother – giving birth on steep mountain slopes to avoid potential predators and eating only after her young have had their fill."

Jan and indeed all the staff were pretty excited as she had been out of condition and I think had needed supplemental feeding.I think they made this cheetah a special case, as all the others were "wild" in the truest sense. She was radio collared so we were able to walk in once we had picked up the signal. a capable hunter indeed as she had killed a female kudu!

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Towlersonsafari

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We did look at the tracks to see what might have happened, The Kudu's neck looked broken-apparently the cheetah's here do use a lot of ambush techniques.It was very interesting to hear from Jan that since the introduction of cheetah's the springbok numbers have suffered greatly-I know that sounds obvious but there were not enough springbok to learn collectively how to avoid predators-to learn from the misfortune of others-where to spend the night for example.It must be very difficult to get the balance right between predator and prey.

Sadly,yesterday we had an email to say that Sibella had died, suffering an abdominal wound that could not be treated in an attack on a common duiker-one minute bringing down a kudu , the next falling foul of a duiker.

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Towlersonsafari

Here are a few pictures to demonstrate the varying scenery .The reserve does seem to do a great deal -vervet monkey research, a tracker school, a child school sponsorship programme.The surrounding area does have high levels of un-employment.To our mind the Karoo is a very interesting and spectacular region, well worth a visit.

 

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@Towlersonsafari

 

Great report, thanks for posting. I agree with @@Marks and @@Tom Kellie that the pictures of the black wilde in post no. 5 is great and with your wife’s comment that their horns “are all wrong”. Also, brave (crazy?) guide to stick his face in a hole in the ground! Too bad the cheetah passed away, it sounds like she had quite a long run (no pun intended) As I believe 14 is pretty old for a wild cheetah. Any more mountain zebra photos to share?

EDIT: Ha! Just as I asked for another zebra photo you posted one - thanks!

Edited by PT123
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Fascinating cheetah story. I don't think many(any?) people would object to her being rehabilitated after being injured by humans in the first place. Supplemental feeding I could see being debated à la artificial waterholes, but that seems to happen elsewhere, too. I'm just glad you were able to see her and bring her story to us prior to her demise. :)

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Treepol

Thanks for the details on Mountain Zebra NP and Samara.

 

How many nights would you recommend in both places?

 

Looking forward to more when you have time, 9 nights in KTP - what a wonderful long stay.

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Towlersonsafari

Thanks @@Treepol 3 nights at both would be good,although you could get away with 2 at Mt. Zebra Samara has varied terrain and we do think that it could be very good for Aardvark. The guide Jan was very flexible and keen to try to find them.He was talking about camera traps to locate active holes

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Towlersonsafari

No Aardvarks for Old Men?

so heres what we knew-Samara advertised the possibility of Daylight Aardvarks in winter, Jan our guide said that up to about a week ago he was getting very regular sightings, and that a guest driving in the week before, had seen 2! Also that when it was very cold, he had noticed aardvarks seemingly sun bathing for about an hour from 1-3pm (presumabley with deckchairs, a cool drink and reading a good book (Anthony & Cleopatra?) (Termite-ator as written by Arnie?) They did change their main burrows regularly-and also used smaller burrows for a day or two but We had seen Aardvark holes everywhere and the lodge was near lovely sandy ground. Harvester termites also seemed to like disturbed ground, so Aardvarks could be seen near the roads and he had seen them near the staff quarters.We whad been foiled at Mount Zebra. Now was surely our chance!

We patrolled the likely areas.Jan inspected each "fresh" hole for possible signs.We came across a very fresh burrow and crept up to it-urine was at the entrance and the fresh soil was very warm-either it had heard us and gone down the burrow or it had wandered off-but we (Jan) could find no tracks-although we did find a very early Leopard tortoise! Jan put some very samll sticks across the front of the burrow.It wa sabout 3.00pm We returned to the vehicle, and waited.and waited, and waited. At baout 6.00pm as hypothermia set in, our brave dutch comrades said what we had all been thinking-lets go back to a hot bath and a decent meal. (something I have never come across before-when we came back from the afternoon activity, before the meal, there would be a hot bath waiting!)

Afterwards, Jane and i accepted Jan's invite to go back out.armed with 2 hot water bottles each, a duvet, our wooly hats and gloves, we arrived back and the sticks had not been moved.this was about 9.30pm. Jan was herioc in humouring the foolish whims of 2 clearly mad guests.We went for a drive around but by 11.00pm called it a night.the enxt morning undaunted by the freakish warm gusting wind, we set out for the hole again-our Dutch couple were having a well deserved lie in.The sticks had not been moved.Either the Aardvark was a trained Ja,es Bond like agent, adept at getting passed our infra-red security beams ( well small sticks) or it had never been there at all! I must admit my mind did briefly wnader to certain other safritalkers and luxury Destinations near Kimberly ( I did think that perhaps they had been hosting an Aatrvark convention which would explain the lack of Aardvarks here) It slowly dawned on us.We had 2 chance sto see Aardvarks now on this trip, slim and none....and slim had just rode out of town

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Towlersonsafari

First of all YEA Chargers! Anyway, We did have a splendid time in Samara. We think it works really well with Mt Zebra and is of course also close to Addo. Its enthusiasm and friendliness are addictive. We hope to go back.The different habitats work very well.

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It was an easy drive back to PE where we were to fly to Cape Town, and then drive up to Springbok.It was raining, with rather low cloud. Still it did come as something of a shock when the garage attendant asked if we were hoping to fly, and wished us luck! It turned out nothing had landed or taken off and there was chaos.We were just on holiday-we overheard someone trying to get to a job interview and another leading a tour full of people with connecting flights. Lawsons our safari company and Bidvest the rental company were very helpful, and we decided to drive-10 hours-just like us driving to the Isle of Skye! The B & B were alerted and the Bidvest branch where we were picking up the 4 x 4.We even got the cost of the flight back-or have been promised it.Cape Town does good value B & B's very well and our stop over was no exception.Next stop Naries just outside Springbok, and the spring flowers

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