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Tswalu Kalahari and Phinda: August/September 2015


Alexander33

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Alexander33

Your creativity enlivens your trip report

 

 

@@Tom Kellie

 

Thank you for the kind words, but I think you give me far too much credit. My creativity definitely has its limits. I leave the poetry to you and @@Atravelynn!

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie

 

Thank you for the kind words, but I think you give me far too much credit. My creativity definitely has its limits. I leave the poetry to you and @@Atravelynn!

 

~ @@Alexander33

 

Such supportive words from Alexander33,

Are wonderfully welcome encouragement to me!

Your Tswalu and Phinda trip report is terrific,

With photos so sharp and candid comments specific.

Tom K.

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Alexander33

@@PCNW

 

Hi, Patsy. First, I would be remiss if I did not thank you for your own trip report and helpful advice to me when I was planning this trip, which prompted my first-ever post on this site.

I'm interested in why you wanted to go through Cape Town twice.

 

The answer to this lies in a personal quirk of mine. I like to ease out of a safari or other outdoor-related adventure. I can't stand the idea of being on a final game drive in the morning and then on an international flight home that same evening. Too jarring. So we always conclude our trips with at least an overnight, if not more time, in a gateway city. This gives us time to shop for gifts for family and friends and to rearrange any packing necessary for a long-haul flight at a relaxed pace.

 

I also like to minimize the number of transfers we have to go through on the international leg. We were on British Airways through Heathrow, and they fly direct between London and both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Cape Town is smaller, easier and more familiar to us, so Cape Town it was. I had thought about flying out of Durban, even though that would involve a transfer at JNB, but there wasn't a convenient interlining flight. Our internal flights were all very reasonably priced, so flying back to Cape Town at the end was easily doable. Plus, we got to conclude our trip with dinner at a favorite restaurant in Cape Town (Myoga, for anyone who's interested).

 

Glad it isn't just me that felt the guest mix at Tswalu was a bit "off." Again, as with you, the lack of guest interaction didn't affect our complete enjoyment of the Reserve; it was just something I took notice of. As to the horseback riding, I was looking to maximize opportunities for wildlife photography, and I just didn't think I could manage that very well on a horse. From your report, though, it looks like a lot of fun. Maybe next time!

 

Thanks for tuning in.

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Alexander33

Such supportive words from Alexander33,

Are wonderfully welcome encouragement to me!

Your Tswalu and Phinda trip report is terrific,

With photos so sharp and candid comments specific.

Tom K.

 

 

@@Tom Kellie

 

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

You went to Leopard Hills;

I'd like to go, too.

 

Mmmm, no. Think I'll stick to prose.

Edited by Alexander33
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Alexander33
I would be interested to know which camera and which lens you used for those fabulous sunbird photos Pen

 

@penlova

 

Hi, Pen. I used a Nikon D7200 with the 80-400mm zoom lens. Stalking my prey and getting as close as possible, though, was the real key, in my opinion. We spent the better half of a day at it.

 

Now, if I could only manage the night sky photography that you seem to have mastered. I'm loving your report on Namibia.

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@@Alexander33

This does present a great contrast to Tswalu and the sand forest looks like avery interesting environment.

Great cheetah pictures - and good news that you were able to stay for the interaction (as well as get your vehicle mates to their appointment!)

I am enjoying your pictures throughout.

Edited by TonyQ
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@@Kitsafari

I am very sorry to hear about your loss.
Pets are such an important part of our lives

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Tom Kellie

@@Alexander33 - i've been AWOL because of work and doggie commitments. busy travelling, meeting year-end deadlines and preoccupied with my dogs. One of them just passed away, causing a lot of heartache, another has cushing's and growing old and probably her last christmas with us (i'm praying it's not), a third damaged her leg and needs a bit of intensive care, and the fourth feeling very lonely and neglected.

 

~ @@Kitsafari

 

After reading a comment from @@TonyQ I found and read your sad comment above, which somehow I'd missed.

I'm so sorry for your loss and the travails of the others.

This is a year-end burden that must be especially painful.

Please know that we're thinking of you.

Tom K.

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pomkiwi

Thankyou very much for this report. My first post on Safaritalk (but about to do a lodge review - honest).

I have been to Nottens for 2 short trips in March and September which followed a self-drive in the Kruger many years ago. I hope to get back for 4 days next May and wondering about trying somewhere different (it is all too easy to return to Nottens as travel is simple for a quick trip and it is such a friendly place).

 

I have been wondering about Tswalu but your experiences and some of the comments have made me pause. Firstly I have been spoilt by the frequency and variety of sightings in the Sabi Sands and although I am interested in a quieter and more reflective trip I wonder if Tswalu might be too far in this direction (that and I still have to get my classic leopard photo!). More of an issue however is that I will be traveling alone and although happy in my own company think I might miss the interaction around the lodge and mealtimes, it does sound as though the atmosphere does not particularly encourage meeting other guests.

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Tom Kellie

Thankyou very much for this report. My first post on Safaritalk (but about to do a lodge review - honest).

I have been to Nottens for 2 short trips in March and September which followed a self-drive in the Kruger many years ago. I hope to get back for 4 days next May and wondering about trying somewhere different (it is all too easy to return to Nottens as travel is simple for a quick trip and it is such a friendly place).

 

I have been wondering about Tswalu but your experiences and some of the comments have made me pause. Firstly I have been spoilt by the frequency and variety of sightings in the Sabi Sands and although I am interested in a quieter and more reflective trip I wonder if Tswalu might be too far in this direction (that and I still have to get my classic leopard photo!). More of an issue however is that I will be traveling alone and although happy in my own company think I might miss the interaction around the lodge and mealtimes, it does sound as though the atmosphere does not particularly encourage meeting other guests.

 

~ @@pomkiwi

 

Welcome to Safaritalk!

It's especially nice that you've already had positive safari experiences in South Africa.

If it's ever comfortable to do so, please share a self-introduction in the Introductions section so that all Safaritalk members and visitors might get to know you.

I too am happy in my own company, often traveling alone.

Let's hope that the classic leopard shot you seek will occur next May!

Tom K.

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pomkiwi

Thanks for the welcome!

 

Introduction duly posted. I'm sure there is plenty of mileage in debating what the classic leopard shot actually looks like (but not in this thread).

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Alexander33

@@pomkiwi

 

What an honor to have your first post here! Welcome aboard.

 

I think whether you'd be comfortable at Tswalu really depends on your individual personality. Curiously, I find myself more introverted when I travel alone than I am when I travel with my partner. In this sense, the relative lack of guest interaction probably wouldn't have been as noticeable to me if I had been on my own -- if that makes sense. The important thing is that the staff there was just wonderful and very welcoming and engaging.

 

For me, any loneliness I have might experienced there if I had been by myself would likely have been due to the private vehicle, with no one other than the guide and tracker with whom to share particular sightings, rather than at mealtimes and around the lodge. Overall, since you say that you are comfortable in your own company (as am I), I really wouldn't let this issue be an obstacle to you unless, for some reason, you truly believe that a lack of guest interaction would make you feel lonely and, thus, materially deprive you of an enjoyable visit. (Plus, there's never a guarantee that you're going to like your vehicle mates or the other guests in camp at a particular time. You might find yourself wishing for more isolation!) Seriously, for what it's worth, I'd jump at the chance to go back to Tswalu, either with my partner or on my own.

 

I can also say this: you probably stand a much better chance of getting that classic leopard shot in Sabi Sand than at Tswalu. On the other hand, Tswalu offers such a unique experience. So how do you break this tie? For us, it was the fact that we felt we had really gotten a good, thorough introduction to what Kruger-area lodges had to offer (including a number of incredible leopard photos) and were ready to move on to other things.

 

Tough decision, I know. But the salve is that either choice will likely lead to a memorable safari experience, and the worst-case scenario will be that in having to make a choice, you will only have deferred a visit to the other locale for another time.

 

I hope that is at least somewhat helpful. And do let me know what you decide. Now that you've made your first post here, it's time to move on to your first trip report!

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Tom Kellie

I can also say this: you probably stand a much better chance of getting that classic leopard shot in Sabi Sand than at Tswalu. On the other hand, Tswalu offers such a unique experience. So how do you break this tie? For us, it was the fact that we felt we had really gotten a good, thorough introduction to what Kruger-area lodges had to offer (including a number of incredible leopard photos) and were ready to move on to other things.

 

Tough decision, I know. But the salve is that either choice will likely lead to a memorable safari experience, and the worst-case scenario will be that in having to make a choice, you will only have deferred a visit to the other locale for another time.

 

I hope that is at least somewhat helpful. And do let me know what you decide. Now that you've made your first post here, it's time to move on to your first trip report!

 

~ @@Alexander33

 

I admire your finely-crafted prose above.

What you've expressed makes such good sense.

Your Tswalu experience, as described herein, is a fine contrast to Sabi Sands.

I especially appreciate your urging @@pomkiwi to consider an initial trip report.

That's the surest way to get the most out of Safaritalk.

Thank you!

Tom K.

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pomkiwi

Very helpful thanks. In fact I did have trip to Tswalu booked for last year but had to cancel it due to a family bereavement. A few weeks later I was able to sort a very last minute trip and ended up at Nottens which was a great place to experience much of what Sabi Sands had to offer and provided a very easy environment to interact as much as one wished without feeling forced (and although happy alone I sometimes find it more difficult if in the company of others who are not on their own - if that makes sense). Funnily enough I find myself wondering more about 4 days in the exclusive company of guide and tracker - it could work really well but if not might drag a bit.

 

You commented earlier abut transient disappointment on this trip after good experiences elsewhere. I can relate a little as the first trip to Nottens in March was exceptional in the variety of sightings (wild dog, leopard hunting and nocturnal lions on the move in one drive) and the weather. September was wet and windy and it took a few hours to readjust and focus on smaller things and details that had been missed in the excitement of the first trip, however in the end it was more relaxing and generated as many importnat memories.

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pomkiwi

@@Alexander33 and Tom Kellie.

I will get a trip report witten in the next few days - just need to pick a few photos and resize / upload them first....

 

If I can get my post count up I might submit a lodge review first to buy some time :D

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Tom Kellie

@@Alexander33 and Tom Kellie.

I will get a trip report witten in the next few days - just need to pick a few photos and resize / upload them first....

 

If I can get my post count up I might submit a lodge review first to buy some time :D

 

~ @@pomkiwi

 

Realist. :)

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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Atravelynn

 

You mention weather patterns in the north and south sections--I think it is more how the types of vegetation react to the weather that makes a difference. I agree the areas are close enough without major geographical features to have their own little climate zones.

 

@@Atravelynn

 

Aha! Thank you for this. That makes much more sense. (I always end up coming home and then thinking of questions I could easily have asked if only I had thought of them at the time!)

 

I know, me too. I think every trip should have a 30-day followup return to ask those things that you only think of once you get home.

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Kitsafari

@@pomkiwi welcome to ST! and looking forward to your TR on Nottens!

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Kitsafari

Thanks @@TonyQ and @@Tom Kellie. We continue to miss her.

 

Apologies to @@Alexander33 for digressing from Phinda! hope to see your TR continuing soon.... :) (hint hint...)

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Alexander33

Apologies to @@Alexander33 for digressing from Phinda! hope to see your TR continuing soon.... :) (hint hint...)

 

@@Kitsafari

 

Ha! Hint taken.....

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Alexander33

So where were we?

 

Oh, yes, we were at sundowners, having birthday cake and champagne with our vehicle mates after having seen the three cheetah brothers.

 

After finishing off the champagne, we returned to the lodge and carried on the celebration together over dinner on the outdoor deck overlooking the bushveld. At some point, I noticed that there was a cat sitting on the deck nearby, crouching on all fours, Sphinxlike, and looking at us intently, silently urging us to drop some food, I suppose. Except that it was the strangest cat I’ve ever seen. And that would probably be because it wasn’t a cat at all.

It was a large-spotted genet. We had seen genets on our night drives at both Timbavati and Sabi Sand (as well as early one morning at Tswalu – that one a small-spotted genet), but they always fled so quickly that I was never able to get any photographs. I thought about trying to capture a shot of this one, but the planks of wood forming the deck wouldn’t exactly be the best backdrop, and, plus, I didn’t want to scare it off.

 

Fortunately, on our first evening at Phinda, we found a truly wild genet staring down at us from a tree near where we were having sundowners, and I was happy to manage a few photographs of it before it scampered away.

 

post-48302-0-66720300-1449026845_thumb.jpg

 

post-48302-0-88289400-1449026987_thumb.jpg

 

As I may have mentioned before, I’m one of those people who have always enjoyed night drives. Each evening after sundowners, Mr. T. would pick up his spotlight and we’d look for the more nocturnal creatures as we made our way back to the lodge.

 

However, other than the genet that first night and a spotted hyena another night, we didn’t find much, and this greatly surprised me, as our night drives in both Timbavati and Sabi Sand consistently had been relatively productive. We did see a few flap-necked chameleons. I’ve always been amazed at how a tracker can spot a small green chameleon clinging to a large green bush in the darkness with nothing but a spotlight while traveling in a vehicle at something like 25 miles per hour. But no owls or bushbabies at all, which was disappointing. Dylan reported that he had seen a polecat (zorilla) twice in the previous week, quite the rare find, but we had no such luck.

 

The genet on the deck at the lodge, however, must have taken a liking to us. He reappeared each night thereafter. To the credit of all the guests there, I never saw anyone feed it.

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Kitsafari

Great pictures of the genet. although we saw lots in South Luangwa, as you had said, they vanished the minute the vehicle stopped. they're rather sphinx-like aren't they except for that sharp nose....

 

"We did see a few flap-necked chameleons. I’ve always been amazed at how a tracker can spot a small green chameleon clinging to a large green bush in the darkness with nothing but a spotlight while traveling in a vehicle at something like 25 miles per hour. "

 

X2! they have supersonic eyes - that's my conclusion.

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Alexander33

The next morning, we decided to pursue rhino. Phinda has both white rhino and black rhino, although they do not off-road for white. (I wish I had asked why this is, but I must have been too preoccupied otherwise. Perhaps someone more in-the-know can provide the explanation. @@Atravelynn to the rescue again? Somebody?)

 

We proceeded to the area of the Reserve where we were likely to find rhino. The morning dawned hazy and atmospheric. The first thing we found was the ultra-rare Brown Unicorn!

 

post-48302-0-45596400-1449034270_thumb.jpg

 

:P

 

 

Fortunately, that wasn't the only one-horned animal we encountered that morning.

 

First, we came upon five white rhino, including two calves. Because we could not off-road for these, they are all a bit distant.

 

 

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Then, driving along, Mr. T. spotted a lone black rhino bull.

 

 

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post-48302-0-58018800-1449034772_thumb.jpg

 

Off the road we went, maintaining a respectful distance as we followed him while he fed from bush to bush. Black rhinos have a reputation for being temperamental, but this one did not seem bothered by us at all.

 

 

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Something in the distance, though, was bothering him. He stopped and sniffed the ground.

 

 

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post-48302-0-61803800-1449035094_thumb.jpg

 

 

It turned out to be two young white rhino bulls. And Blackie was none too happy about their encroachment. He rapidly made a beeline toward them, and the two white rhinos decided they were having none off this. After a short hesitation, they took off, and Blackie followed in fast pursuit.

 

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Having chased off the two white rhinos to a distance that met with his approval, Blackie settled down and returned to the business of feasting on spring's gift of fresh, new leaves on the surrounding bushes.

The two young white rhinos saunter off in defeat, hanging their heads.....

 

post-48302-0-98424700-1449035557_thumb.jpg

 

.....while Blackie, pumped up as the victor in a 2-1 showdown, trots off to some bushes with delicious new spring growth.

 

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Dylan and Mr. T. both stated that had never before seen such an encounter between white rhino and black rhino, simply because the two species don’t compete against one another. At most, the two species had only met and crossed horns, with both eventually ambling off and each saving face. But a chase? That was new for them -- and for us, of course.

 

A nearby small herd of buffalo was far less impressed.

 

post-48302-0-39260800-1449036126_thumb.jpg

 

post-48302-0-78423900-1449036188_thumb.jpg

Edited by Alexander33
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Tom Kellie

~ @@Alexander33

 

Black vs 2x White Rhinos.

What could be better than that?

Terrific photography of a special encounter.

Really like it!

Tom K.

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Atravelynn

"Dylan and Mr. T. both stated that had never before seen such an encounter between white rhino and black rhino, simply because the two species don’t compete against one another. At most, the two species had only met and crossed horns, with both eventually ambling off and each saving face. But a chase? That was new for them -- and for us, of course."

 

Isn't it exciting when even the ranger and tracker are seeing something new? And you got such good shots of this unusual encounter! Maybe the vehicles can't off-road for white rhino, but the black rhino certainly decided to do some off-roading for white rhino to show them who is boss. I think the reason there is no off-roading for white rhino is that they are more common.

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