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Nottens Bush camp, Sabi Sands May and September 2015


pomkiwi

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kittykat23uk

Fantastic dog sightings! :)

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After an absence of several years I returned to South Africa twice in 2015 for stays at Nottens Bush camp in the Sabi Sands. Both were short trips as my wife doesn’t share my interest in wildlife or

Just a quiet evening – zebra, giraffe, rhino and a few more lions…   It felt like a short break between our leopard delayed breakfast and heading back out in the late afternoon. It felt very easy t

This safari lark is easy – wild dog and cheetah on first drive J   After a quick swim I was sitting on the deck when movement caught my eye. A lone male elephant was headed towards the lodge at a fa

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elefromoz

@@pomkiwi, "white tails bobbing in the grass", thanks, now I know what to look out for, Dogs always seem to be busy in everyones photos. Nice profile of the Dogs face, highlighting those jagged pearly whites beautifully, no wonder they are so good at tearing things apart.

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TonyQ

@@pomkiwi

"30 seconds after leaving the gate we spotted some white tails bobbing in the grass – wild dogs."

Not a bad start to your final drive! You convey the movement really well - lovely photos

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pomkiwi

@elefromoz

@@TonyQ

 

Thank-you for your kind comments. It was very early and the light was poor - as such the photos are not as sharp as I might have wanted. Sometimes this has been useful in emphasising movement but sometimes just led to poor quality shots. The learning point for me was to be more adventurous in dealing up the ISO.

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pomkiwi

Next Up – more time with my favourite leopard

 

Just settling down after the excitement of the dogs we headed off to a wooded area close to the river as at least one leopard had been reported in the area. After 15 minutes of fruitless searching we came around the corner to a study in concentration.

 

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Now I am assured that this leopard is / was the same female who had delayed our breakfast a couple of days earlier. I’m not an expert and failed to take photos specifically for spot recognition but I must admit that the two look close similar enough for me to believe they are the same.

 

She was clearly intent on hunting this morning and we were lucky to be able to watch 2 attempts. Firstly she was concentrating on an impala about 10m away but behind some thick bush. She tracked the impala moving slowly for a few meters and stopping when the antelope stopped.

 

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This went on for about 15 minutes but was ended when another vehicle arrived at some speed. The leopard didn’t seem bothered or even to notice but the impala was spooked and bounced off.

 

We expected that to be it but after a brief pause and a stare that now decorates my dining room she crossed the road and spotted another potential meal.

 

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Again it must have been about 15 minutes that she stalked for.

 

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I’m sure you can see the target…..

 

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Once more the calm was shattered when a vehicle arrived quickly and noisily. The potential meal ran off and the leopard wandered off down the road in search of another opportunity (or just some peace and quiet).

 

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Overall I was left with some mixed feelings. It was a real privilege to be able to spend so long watching the hunting. It was less pleasant to witness the negative impact of careless or thoughtless human behaviour on the hunt. Irrationally I found myself more irritated by the fact that the vehicles in question moved on within 10 minutes or so. Still it wasn’t the morning for negativity with more quality sightings to come.

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Bad luck with the other cars...but great luck with the leopard itself! I can see why you framed that stare. :)

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  • 3 weeks later...
pomkiwi

Apologies for the delay in continuing this report but I have spent a few days in the English Lake District walking and then a visit to New York this weekend which was derailed by a major snow storm. Both trips were light on wildlife but I offer two images - the first as a reminder of why I go on safari and the second a stretched reference to bringing 'Your huddled masses'

 

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Well probably not what you were expecting but after the brief diversion - back to Africa :)

 

 

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pomkiwi

Onwards - and photogenic rhinos

 

Well this was turning out to be an OK morning we all agreed.

 

Next up were a pair of rhino –by the look of it a mother and adolescent calf. Both stuck close together and provided a few portrait opportunities so good that even I forgot my generally bored response to this member of the big 5.

 

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Then to finish off a group of lions just getting ready for a hard day’s sleep. We spend a while intruding on their bedtime washing and grooming.

 

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Then they went horizontal and clearly had no plans for further movement for a while.

 

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We headed off and went for another late breakfast. I was quite buzzing after such a productive drive.

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@@pomkiwi - I am glad that you revived this trip report...I might have missed it otherwise. You've had some great sightings with great pics. I always like wider images of animals in their environment like the cheetah under the tree and those horizontal lions doing what lions do best. And for somebody not keen on rhinos there are more than a few images of them here....is somebody secretly a big fan? Thanks for sharing and looking forward to more.

 

PS - any chance of a sneaky Lake District picture? I spent some happy times there many years ago including breaking in a brand new car over Hardknott Pass while trying to keep the rev counter as low as possible to not stress the engine (good job it was a company car as I had no chance on that incline holding first gear on the clutch in a passing zone!).

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Quite a contrast between those two posts!

I am also in the grips of winter and very much counting on ST to remind me of warmth and sunlight.

Very nice lion photos.

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pomkiwi

@@deano Thank-you for your comments.

Re Rhinos - no only snap them out of a sense of duty :D

 

Lake District photos - I posted a few in the winter landscapes thread - Langdale valley and a couple from the top of Bowfell in full winter condition. They are on the final page at the moment. Overall a nicer snow experience than NYC. We spend a couple of weeks in the lakes every year - one in January and one in June, lovely place.

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@@pomkiwi...that's how it starts mate. I didn't realize how much I liked them until we went to Zambia where there are none. Looking forward to more; Nottens has been on our radar for a while.

 

I found the winter landscapes thread as well - Safaritalk just gets better and better.

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pomkiwi

Homewards

 

All too soon 4 days had passed. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I set off on this trip (possibly an advantage of not having discovered Safaritalk) but my experience at Nottens had been as good as I could have hoped for or imagined.

The Lodge itself was comfortable and very well equipped. The people I met, both staff and guests, were friendly and all seemed to be enjoying what they were doing. The food and drink were always good (can anyone eat the quantities served though?)

 

I don’t think I had realised just how close one could get to the animals and how in the most part they seemed to carry on almost without noticing us.

I felt tremendously privileged not just to have been able to make the trip but also be to be able to spend time quietly in this ecosystem.

 

Having wondered if this would be a one off I left already making tentative plans to return during the winter (and wondering how I might get that past my wife). I was assuming a year or more would pass beforehand.

 

In the end I managed to get back about 6 months later and this section of the report will follow but on the way to the airport one last elephant sighting!

 

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Alexander33

@@pomkiwi

 

Actually, New York has tons of wild life -- but mainly of the two-legged variety!

 

What a memorable last drive -- it's hard to argue with a pack of wild dogs and a leopard as your parting gift (sorry the other vehicle led to an aborted hunt -- was it also from Nottens??).

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What an amazing TR, thanks for sharing. We were at Nottens last Sept, and had a wonderful time. The only regret...no cheetahs at that time and we only stayed for 3 days. We need to go back :)

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Tom Kellie

~ @@pomkiwi

 

Your solitary steenbok images are terrific! They were a challenge to photograph in Sabi Sands.

The concentrating leopard series is compelling — very, very nice!

Thank you for this lovely trip report which I've enjoyed while completing packing for the safari journey this evening.

Tom K.

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pomkiwi

@@Alexander33 I agree a tremendous last drive (most of the others weren't too shabby either).

 

My impression both from this trip and the one I made in September (shameless plug for additions to this report to come) was that the vehicles from Nottens took a laid back approach and encouraged us to spend time at sightings and indeed sometimes just time in the bush. I did not experience any aggressive or assertive driving. Traversing rights are shared with a larger lodge and I witnessed a number of occasions when they seemed to be rushing (? working to ensure guests got to tick off lists) and I felt they became too intrusive quite frequently. On one occasion with a large group of elephants I felt the attempt to 'push' their way through had the potential to provoke a reaction from the animals.

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pomkiwi

@@xyz99 Thank-you for your kind words. I was also back at Nottens in September (another shameless plug) and saw no cheetahs either. We were told in March that the sightings were not common and I have read reports subsequently that cheetahs are not currently often seen in that area of the Sabi Sands and one comment that the author had been told that some had been killed by lions.

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pomkiwi

@@Tom Kellie Thank-you once more - you provide endless encouragement to newbies like myself. Have a safe trip and enjoy your return to Kenya.

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What a great thread this has been.

 

I felt tremendously privileged not just to have been able to make the trip but also be to be able to spend time quietly in this ecosystem.

 

You've summed up exactly how I feel with this sentence. Just being witness to this wilderness, however briefly, is a treat.

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Quite a contrast - the New York snow and your safari wildlife.

Very enjoyable - so I look forward to the next section (are you addicted now?)

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pomkiwi

September return

 

I left Nottens in March feeling rested and exhilarated. I felt extremely lucky to have been able to spend 4 days indulging my interests in wildlife and in photography. I had been treated to a succession of superb sightings but talking with other guests left me me in no doubt that there was much left to witness.

 

I had decided that I wanted to go back in the winter months and resigned myself to that being sometime in 2016. As it turned out I was able to get a few days together in mid-September and figured that going then would give me most of the benefits of winter with slightly warmer temperatures. My wife was kind enough to give me her blessing (the basis for this is that my knees have called time on skiing off-piste and safari time can replace skiing time!) and arrangements were made. A quick exchange of e-mails confirmed 3 nights were available in the same room at Nottens and once again I booked flights with Emirates from London to Johannesburg via Dubai using my Emirates airmiles to reduce the cost somewhat. A couple of SAA Airlink flights to and from Skukuza completed the travel arrangements.

 

My kit was much the same as in March but with an extra layer (as it turned out this was a good move). The one major change was that I added the Nikon 80-400mm lens in place of the 70-300mm. This was both for some extra reach and also as I had found some of the images from the 70-300mm rather soft at the 300mm end. Also it is a bloke thing to want new toys. I was very happy with some of the landscape shots I had got with it over the summer and had been impressed with its performance shooting some deer at home one evening. I partnered this lens with my Nikon D7100 and as before took my 16-85mm lens attached to my old D90

 

I didn’t travel with any ‘must see’ objectives – how can you when the time is spent in a natural environment? However I will confess to hoping to see a leopard in a tree and maybe some further examples of predators hunting.

 

As it turned out the first hope was met, albeit in a manner that still leaves justification to return J

 

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Other notable events in the three days included more time with a pack of dogs, lots of elephants, even more buffalo and a lion hunting.

 

Oh and rather more cold, grey rain more typical of England than the Kruger than was ideal…..

 

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@@pomkiwi - a leopard in tree shot seems to be on most people's wish list - it's on mine for sure and I would be happy with yours - it definitely shows the leopard in it's environment. I also like the cold grey feel of the last image above. It is often a surprise to our friends and family when we tell them how cold it can get on safari and that picture actually gets that across very well. Good job.

 

We seem to have had a similar camera/lens journey. I had some nice shots from a D5200 70-300 combo but it was a bit soft at the 300 end especially for anything quite far away. Brilliant for getting in tight though like most of the images captured from a safari vehicle with a subject close by. I upgraded to the 80-400 and then the D5200 went on the blink and after an out of warranty repair that fixed the original issue but caused another (the on off switch didn't work) I decided that I couldn't risk any more malfunctions so I bought a D750. I have to say that I prefer this FX 80-400 combo as I seem to get better quality crops out of it - not that I enter them for professional contests or anything but I like them when framed and displayed at home or in the office. That said, I think I have as may keepers from the D5200 70-300 anyway.

 

Looking forward to more .

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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  • 2 weeks later...
pomkiwi

Time to return to the report - apologies for the gap but it's been one of those months (still it's now only 3 months until I return to Africa again).

 

The journey out was smooth and unremarkable. Emirates provided smooth flghts that arrived on time. Johannesburg airport was a better experience without the Ebola screening questionnaires (or rather the chaotic process for collecting them) and once my bag was collected it was over to the Intercontinental for breakfast. Back to the airport and formalities were quickly completed for the Skukuza flight, once more nobody seemed interested in wieighing my carry on but I gate checked it so I could find somewhere to put my feet.

A short flight later I was met by one of the Nottens team and driven back to the lodge - disappointingly in a closed car but we didn't pass many animals anyway.

 

I find it easy and relaxing returning to a favourite hotel or restaurant and here was no exception, it was easy to greet familiar faces and make my self comfortble in 'my' room. The day was beautiful so I went for a swim in Nottens rather lovely pool. The main difference from March was that this was now the end of winter and not the end of summer - the temperature of the pool bore witness to this.

 

Soon it was time for the first drive and I settled myself down with cameras at the ready and a sense of anticipation. We swung out of camp and stopped to observe a dismissive giraffe.

 

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Within a few minutes we left the road and entered a small clearing. There had been a sighting of a female leopard there earlier with a kill in a small tree. One 'objective'satisfied withiin 15 minutes - would we peak too early?

 

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Well not yet. The most visible inhabitant of the clearing was a somewhat bored and scruffy looking hyena. After a more careful search it was clear that although the leopards impala was safely lodged in the tree she had come down for a break.

 

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After a brief demonstration of the effectiveness of camouflage, she turned over and went off to sleep.

 

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We headed off as well (but we went back - often)

 

A surprisngly quiet hour came to an end when we met a scout.....

 

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The first picture of the leopard in this series is beautiful. Frame that one for your wall!

Great trip report, carry on!

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