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Tswalu Kalahari and Phinda: August/September 2015


Alexander33

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Alexander33

Overall Impressions of the Full Trip

 

There have been a few comments from readers in the know that Tswalu and Phinda make a good combination, and I agree wholeheartedly.

 

After having spent our previous safari near Kruger, we wanted to see the diversity of what else South Africa has to offer. Tswalu and Phinda definitely contrasted with one another, which was our goal. We had desert and ocean, dune and mountain, acacia and palm. And we were fortunate to have multiple quality sightings of the two major species that can be “iffy” in Timbavati and Sabi Sand and that, accordingly, we particularly wanted to see this time around: black rhino and cheetah.

 

Reflecting back, I would not hesitate to repeat our general itinerary all over again. If I can say that, then it goes without saying that I feel this trip was a complete success.

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Alexander33

The enjoyable aspect of writing a trip report, aside from the interactions with other members that add another dimension to the experience, is that it allows you to relive your safari all over again, only with the added benefit of perspective that can only come with the passage of time. The downside is that it redoubles what, for so many, is the lowest point of a safari: the moment at which it’s time to leave.

 

But that time always arrives, doesn’t it? And, thus, it has again. With that, once more I must say, “So long, Africa.” But don’t think that means, “Goodbye.”

 

After all, I still have a pangolin to see.

 

 

View from Vlei Lodge, Phinda

 

post-48302-0-49505900-1450654577_thumb.jpg

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Kitsafari

@@Alexander33 it's impossible to say farewell to Africa. It's only See you soon, and we always hope it'll be sooner than later. thanks for sharing your report with us. Tswalu really beckons and so many ST-ers are already on board for the next two years, so we should have a slew of TRs to look forward to ! not sure if you have mentioned earlier, what is next?

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@@Alexander33

It was great to see your pride of lions again on your last drive - and excellent photos for us to enjoy.

The report has been very enjoyable - the contrast between the two environments made a great trip for you and a fascinating report for us.

Engaging writing and excellent photos - what more could we want

Thank you for posting.

Edited by TonyQ
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Tom Kellie

The enjoyable aspect of writing a trip report, aside from the interactions with other members that add another dimension to the experience, is that it allows you to relive your safari all over again, only with the added benefit of perspective that can only come with the passage of time. The downside is that it redoubles what, for so many, is the lowest point of a safari: the moment at which it’s time to leave.

 

But that time always arrives, doesn’t it? And, thus, it has again. With that, once more I must say, “So long, Africa.” But don’t think that means, “Goodbye.”

 

After all, I still have a pangolin to see.

 

~ @@Alexander33

 

That's surely the most graceful trip report conclusion one might ever read.

Moving and apt, not to mention inspiring.

We two need to team up for a week-long series of night game drives to find your pangolin and my Zorilla.

This trip reports wry commentary, delightful images, superb sightings and down-to-earth tone put both Tswalu and Phinda Vlei in the finest light.

They each owe you a free night to compensate you for the business your lovely trip report will send their way.

After such a high-class trip report, you've earned a break. Nonetheless, we look forwar to your next visit to Africa and another such trip report!

With Admiration,

Tom K.

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Alexander33

it's impossible to say farewell to Africa. It's only See you soon, and we always hope it'll be sooner than later. not sure if you have mentioned earlier, what is next?

 

@@Kitsafari

 

So true what you say about Africa.

 

Next up for us? 2016 will see us sticking to the Americas: Costa Rica in late January, and then Brazil (the Pantanal and Mata Atlantica rainforest) in July.

 

But have no fear! Africa remains on the radar. We have pretty much finalized our itinerary for Rwanda in 2017, although I’m still playing with the exact dates.

 

And how about for you? (I mean, of course, after you and @Safari Chick finish your trip report(s) for your recent jaunt to India. :) ) I’ve never been there, and I just might want to follow in your footsteps!

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Alexander33

Tswalu really beckons and so many ST-ers are already on board for the next two years, so we should have a slew of TRs to look forward to !

 

To all:

 

I am anxiously awaiting the trip reports in turn, hopefully filled with armies of aardvarks and parades of pangolins.

 

Speaking of Tswalu, early in my report there was a rather untoward comment suggesting that certain aspects of our daily schedule there, such as breakfast in the bush, were inappropriate. Obviously, I disagree.

 

Since then, I came across an entry on Tswalu’s own blog, dated October 28, 2015 and entitled “Must Dos at Tswalu Kalahari.”

 

Listed at number 2:

 

  • “Take an early morning game drive and don’t rush back for breakfast. Request a delicious gourmet picnic – breakfast in the bush is a memory to savour”

 

Given that sundowners, searching for black-maned lions, and spending time at a meerkat colony are also on the list, it’s obvious that these are not special, one-off activities, but rather, standard experiences that anyone visiting Tswalu can expect.

 

So, as you can see, not only is breakfast in the bush with your guide and tracker perfectly appropriate, Tswalu’s management actively encourages its guests to take advantage of the opportunity.

 

So do I.

 

It’s preferable that you put your request in the night before, so as not to delay the start time of your game drive the next morning.

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Alexander33

@@TonyQ

 

Thank you so much for following along from start to finish. Your encouraging words were most appreciated at every stage.

 

And, you know, I’ve bookmarked your report on Borneo from earlier this year. It is a reference to which I will want to return again and again as I dream of a visit there. Someday perhaps……

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Alexander33

@@Tom Kellie

 

Your words are pure poetry to my ears!

 

 

 

We two need to team up for a week-long series of night game drives to find your pangolin and my Zorilla.

 

Now wouldn’t that be an amazing trip report? Ah, one can dream, right?

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This has been an excellent report, which I've enjoyed very much.

 

 

One very nice tradition at Phinda was a brief cocktail hour before dinner, for which the guides and the lodge manager would join us. (This must be an &Beyond thing, because we had the same experience at Ngala Tented Camp in Timbavati). We really enjoyed mixing with the other guests and their guide, catching up on the highlights of their day and, in general, just having a few minutes of comradery with everyone. Some guests were on their first-ever safari and others were very experienced safarigoers, and the range of perspectives and experiences served as the ground for lively and interesting conversations each evening.

 

This sense of shared fellowship after a successful day of safari is such a nice experience. Thank you for describing it so well.

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michael-ibk

Very glad you got your lions again in the end. And the Royal Family is magnificent indeed.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed your report, Peter, both Phinda and Tswalu are fascinating places, and I hope to get there one day, especially Tswalu - the chance for Pangolin and Aardvark is a very strong pull, not to mention all the other excellent stuff like the Meerkats. I actually considered adding a few days there after our Kgalagadi trip this summer but was brought to reason by my wallet. ;)

 

Really a good thing for all of us that you took the plunge with your first South America report (which was great as well), and are in Trip Report modus now. Your writing and photography were just excellent and really made me feel like I was there with you. And I wish I had been - so many terrific sightings!

 

Looking forward to your Costa Rica and Pantanal reports! Thank you for all your efforts in putting this report together for us, it was a very special one. :)

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Alexander33

@@Marks

 

Thanks so much for following along. I also really enjoyed your report on your recent adventure to Zambia. That is a destination that continually intrigues, and you did nothing to dissuade me from focusing there!

 

@@michael-ibk

 

Your encouraging words have always helped me limp along. Thank you. Yes, more Central/South American adventures are on their way, but we will be back to Africa as soon as we can. In the meantime, even if you couldn't fit in Tswalu for your upcoming South African trip, your itinerary is most intriguing. Can't wait to hear all about it.

 

To all:

 

Happy New Year. I wish you great happiness and health in the forthcoming year, and, for those of you traveling, safety and, wherever your destination may be, great sightings as well.

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Atravelynn

Loved your rainbow ending. That sunset in the vehicle over water is beautiful too. Lions seem to be doing well and raising (photogenic) cubs in Phinda. Was there any talk of lions encroaching on cheetahs or diminishing their numbers?

 

Knowing you have Rwanda coming up makes ending this safari in both report form and in reality, a little easier.

 

This was a wonderful trip! You'll send others off on a Tswalu-Phinda combo!

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pomkiwi

@ Alexander33 Thank-you for this report, I have enjoyed very much. It must have been a great trip to enjoy such different eco-systems. I found the first part of your report very helpful in deciding whether to go to Tswalu as a single traveller. In the end I have decided not yet, partly because of some concern that 4 days might be too long if I did not gel with the guide and tracker and also because the distances travelled to reach sightings appeared potentially long - this might be less of an issue in company.

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@@Alexander 33

 

Great report, great photos, great details! I have enjoyed reading it. And now I am looking forward to read same detailed and filled with photos from my other beloved country - Costa Rica ! Do your best to promote its wonders !!

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kittykat23uk

@@Alexander33 Thank you for a wonderful trip report. Your experience of Tswalu brings it back down to earth after reaching an almost mythical standing in my own mind, due to the other recent reports on here where pangolins and aardvarks were seemingly lurking around every corner! I totally get why you felt a bit miffed after your first days, as I think that with great expense comes great expectations that every sighting will be perfect, which of course is not the case. That you pulled yourself up and found the right mindset to truly enjoy what Tswalu was willing to show is testament to your own consciousness. Phinda seems to have delivered in spades! Especially with the cheetahs and lions. Thank you for taking the time to write this entertaining report and I wish you all the best in your future plans! :D

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Alexander33

@@Atravelynn

 

Thanks so much. It really was a great trip. But you are right about the need to soften the blow resulting from the end of a great adventure. Before I leave on any given trip, I always try to make sure I have another one booked for the future. It helps balance my reminiscences! And I hope I never forget what a true privilege it is to have the opportunity to have witnessed the things I have seen.

 

I am not sure about the lion/cheetah mix at Phinda. Obviously, the mother and her 5 cubs was the crowd pleaser, but personally I was most taken with our first cheetah experience, the three-male sibling coalition. They were not seen again after the evening we spent with them, and the explanation was that lions had been seen in the area the next morning and that that might have had something to do with it.

 

On the other hand, although we had 5 nights there, that's not so much time in the big picture, and I did not hear of any concerns expressed that the lion population was having any kind of detrimental effect on the cheetahs. Guests in the other vehicle assigned to our lodge reported having great cheetah sightings as well, so from my perspective and admittedly limited knowledge, the balance seems healthy for now.

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Alexander33

@@xelas

 

Wow, that's a tall order, but I will do my best!

 

I'm going to try to take my new Christmas present with me down to Costa Rica -- the 200-500mm lens. Of course, it won't provide any more help with the low light situations, but at least the subjects in my otherwise bad photos will be larger!

 

If I can come back with a fraction of what you two did, I will be a happy man

 

Thanks for your encouraging words throughout this report, and a very Happy New Year to you. Can't wait to hear back about your adventures. As you can see, I'm following in your footsteps!

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Alexander33

@@kittykat23uk

 

I am so glad you enjoyed the report, although I certainly hope I didn't dash anyone's dream of a mythical experience at Tswalu. After all, we were pretty thrilled with what we did see -- including that aardvark, even if it and the hidden pangolins out there didn't come out and do a line dance in broad daylight for us immediately upon our arrival at the lodge.

 

Tswalu is a very special place, and I don't think that we even began to delve beneath its surface in the short time we were there. An earlier comment by @@Peter Connan really resonates -- the Kalahari is slow to reveal her secrets. I hope I will have the chance to return some day.

 

And, yes, Phinda! We certainly enjoyed our time there. While Tswalu may have garnered all the attention here, Phinda did a fantastic job of bookending this particular South African experience. So happy with everything there, most especially the cheetahs.

 

Thank you for not only for your nice words here, but also for your legacy of fascinating trip reports, all of which are such valuable resources. Your most recent account of your time in Norway was most intriguing and inspiring.

Edited by Alexander33
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Peter Connan

@@Alexander33, thanks for a stunning trip report filled with stunning photos.

 

Congratulations on the Christmas present, this seems to be an excellent lens. Somebody I know has one and she reports that it is nice and sharp even wide open.

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Alexander33

@@Peter Connan

 

Thank you for your generous comments. We will see whether my new Christmas present makes any difference in the tropics. Wish me luck!

 

However, if we are going to use the adjective "stunning" here, then the first place I must go is back to your mini-trip report on Marievale from April of this year. I've mentioned it before, but that shot of the black egret in hunting mode is stupendous. I've never gotten it out of my mind. May I nominate that as Safaritalk's bird photograph of the year?

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@@Alexander33

 

You may, and I am giving my vote to it also! Now maybe @@Peter Connan will show me in person how he did it ??

 

Congratulations on your new lens! If I would not have fallen in love with the "old lady" (= AF-S300f4D) it will already be also under our family x-mas tree.

Using it wide open and getting sharp results will be of paramount importance on your next destination. I am so anxious to see its (and yours) results.

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