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A Safari of Returns: Tswalu and Welgevonden, South Africa, September 2015


Tdgraves

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Tdgraves

Game around camp

 

Our room was the end of the row and at the convergence of several game trails down to the water hole, which is situated in front of the main lodge. So we thought we'd catch loads on our motion-sensitive camera, but we couldn't really find a good spot to place it, as you need to avoid branches that move in front of the sensor, but it also needs to be near enough to the path that it gets triggered

 

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So it wasn't altogether successful, and no nocturnal creatures at all

 

However, overlooking the game path did have its' advantages. These guys gathering to come down....

 

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And these two sizing each other up...

 

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and three hard to see species, all in the same shot

 

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as well as generalised commotion, all from the shade of our deck

 

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The sable seemed to like hanging around the buildings, we literally nearly bumped into one as we walked up to the lodge

 

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And as with most camps, there were plenty of birds, including some new species for us...

 

Acacia pied barbet

 

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Mountain wheatear

 

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and the brown-capped tchagra (the one I was looking up in the book)

 

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grey lourie

 

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Day 3 Evening Drive 2/9/15   As it was the OH's birthday, today was the day for the aardvark. As each vehicle leaves the lodge, the guide radios in the direction they intend to go in and if there is

Day 2: Afternoon game drive, 1/9/15   Today was the day for dogs. Although they have radio-collared several of the pack and the guide knew their recent GPS location, it still took a lot of driving a

Day 1 Tswalu Evening Drive 31/8/15   I am starting this as the official day 1 as the time at our friends lodge was an added extra and not a true safari. We had a good send off with a full South Afri

Tdgraves

Oops not a go away bird, but a white-backed mousebird, I'm reliably informed....

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Tdgraves

 

After returning to enjoy the meerkat images at a slower pace, I notice that image #19 shows the teeth.

As you were observing them, did they show teeth from time to time, or is that out-of-the-ordinary?

The meerkat images I've seen typically seem to be mouth closed shots.

In your final resting cheetah image, winged insects are visible — nice photography.

With the new camera, I'm hoping that your upcoming safari might yield a few photographs of subjects you might not have expected to encounter.

Tom K.

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Tdgraves

@@Tom Kellie I think it was because it was in the middle of having a bath. And of course luck as to when the shutter releases....

 

Did you have anything in particular in mind, a zorilla, for example???

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie I think it was because it was in the middle of having a bath. And of course luck as to when the shutter releases....

 

Did you have anything in particular in mind, a zorilla, for example???

 

~ @@Tdgraves

 

That's so true about pure chance and shutter releases.

Others will compliment a given image as if I'd composed it with skill, while I inwardly wince, knowing that I was surprised to see it when I returned home.

What I'd thought was a straightforward late afternoon riverscape image turned out to have a crocodile when scrutinized at home.

Ho! If the new 7D Mark II manages a Zorilla shot, it will have been christened as much as if Her Majesty had broken a magnum of the finest Moët and Chandon on it.

In Safaritalk Zorilla images are few and far between. The last one that I recall was in @@pault's recent Kenya trip report.

http://safaritalk.net/topic/15376-another-bloody-safari-mara-and-ol-pejeta-october-2015/page-6, #118

In the almost unimaginable event that you return bearing a Zorilla image, I'll consider 2016 to have begun in the finest style!

Tom K.

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Tdgraves

Day 3 Evening drive 3/9/15

 

There are leopard in Tswalu, but they are not habituated like those in Sabi Sands, for instance. There is a leopard research project ongoing (one of many in Tswalu) and the leopard that they study, is in the far end of the reserve in the mountains. Given that a lot of guests only stay for 2 nights and likely target desert species and lion, Juan never has much chance to go and find them. Now, we are really fond of leopard, so we don't need to be asked twice, even when he told us it was a long drive and there was no guarantee, we were off to find the leopard!

 

We set off a bit earlier than usual and Juan warned us that we would not stop at routine sightings, in order that we get there with plenty of time. However, our first sighting was not ordinary, a pygmy falcon.

 

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And as we sat, trying to get that elusive in flight shot, Juan developed a puzzled look and reverse the vehicle a few metres. "I swear I just heard a Pearl spotted owlet" he said with a puzzled look.. And then he spotted it, right next to the road!

 

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What a guide!

 

We stopped for a koorhaan and a kudu, but otherwise, it was best foot forwards.

 

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We got to the area where the researchers said that the leopard was active, in plenty of time, with still good light. There were a few klipspringers about, but none who wished to pose. Before long we found fresh female leopard tracks and began working our way around the block. We were joined by another vehicle from the opposite direction. We lost the tracks heading into the thick bush in the general direction of a dam, the only water source close by, so we parked in a good position and waited, hoping that she would come out for a drink. Here is the dam.

 

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We sat and had a drink. The other vehicle eventually joined us at the dam. They had seen leopard tracks over the top of our vehicle tracks (although they thought it was a male :(). They were off back to the lodge as their solo guest did not wish to wait any longer :wacko:. As she had walked over our tracks, it was unlikely she was coming to drink, so we decided to go back and see where the tracks lead us. The light was really fading and just as we were losing hope, our tracker spotted a leopard. Far away. It took us a while to latch on to where he was pointing, as you can see from the photo.

 

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It was the white chest that had given it away. But hang on. Look closer....

 

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There were two cubs!

 

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They were playing

 

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There was a fresh warthog kill in a tree right in front of where we had parked and they were a couple of hundred metres behind it in the bush. As they were playing, we edged forwards nearer to the tree.

 

We were pretty pleased, not many guests at Tswalu see leopard. However, it wasn't much of a photo opportunity. Well, that all changed. As soon as it got dark, they were in their natural environment and one of them came marching towards us - hunger had got the better of him!

 

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Who needs sundowners??

 

We had a fairly long drive back to the lodge, although it didn't seem to take that long. On the way back we met a spring hare.

 

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:D

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xelas

Indeed, who needs a sundowner anyway? If not for the fact that the sun goes down, and the leopard goes up :) !

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Tdgraves

 

Well, you've gone and done it! My breath is taken away!

The lead-up — pygmy falcon, pear-spotted owlet, koorhan and kudu — would sparkle in any game drive.

Yet the ensuing leopard sequence...oh my goodness!

Tswalu leopards, no less. What a trip report!

One point shows my ignorance — what characteristics of leopard spoor would suggest gender?

Size?

@@xelas has said what I feel: “Indeed, who needs a sundowner anyway?

Like @@TonyQ and @@Thursday's Child, you're linked with leopards in my estimation.

The leopard series, from playing to eating the kill in a tree, are well-photographed.

The lighting on the leopard was from a spotlight on the safari vehicle?

Many thanks for posting these.

Tom K.

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Tdgraves

@@Tom Kellie yes, a single spot light from the vehicle.

 

Female tracks are smaller!

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Peter Connan

Magnificent!

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Atravelynn

Beautiful leopard day & night. The springhare was likely the bigger challenge. I have noting that everyone is seeing leopard cubs. You've joined the party too. Tremendous good fortune x 2.

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Tdgraves

some leopard videos

 

 

 

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Tom Kellie

Ah, but last year, we had two pairs of cubs @@Atravelynn

 

~ @@Tdgraves and @@Atravelynn

 

Maintaining the highest standards from year-to-year is a challenge vexing even the best. :)

Sigh.

Does that mean that if one were to finally spot an elusive Zorilla, the following year nothing less than two Zorillas would do?

Ha!

Yours truly would be overjoyed with a glimpse of a wee leopard cub's tail retreating into the evening darkness.

@@Tdgraves, we're hoping that your upcoming safari will have yet another delightful sighting captured by the new 7D Mark II!

Tom K.

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Atravelynn

 

Ah, but last year, we had two pairs of cubs @@Atravelynn

 

~ @@Tdgraves and @@Atravelynn

 

Maintaining the highest standards from year-to-year is a challenge vexing even the best. :)

Sigh.

Does that mean that if one were to finally spot an elusive Zorilla, the following year nothing less than two Zorillas would do?

Why not a doubling from year to year? Then 4 zorillas, next safari 8, then 16. The only zorilla I saw was on a Robin Pope safari in Liwua Plains. Tobin had seen them before but wife Jo, a veteran of the bush, had never seen one before.

 

Ah, but last year, we had two pairs of cubs @@Atravelynn

How about sharing?

@@Atravelynn I have done....

 

http://safaritalk.net/topic/13879-kruger-circuit-a-south-africa-safari-at-the-optimum-time-september-2014/

I remember the report, especially the timing aspect. My sharing request was more literal. We want double leopard cubs on safari too!

 

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Tom Kellie

 

 

Ah, but last year, we had two pairs of cubs @@Atravelynn

 

~ Why not a doubling from year to year? Then 4 zorillas, next safari 8, then 16. The only zorilla I saw was on a Robin Pope safari in Liwua Plains. Tobin had seen them before but wife Jo, a veteran of the bush, had never seen one before.

I remember the report, especially the timing aspect. My sharing request was more literal. We want double leopard cubs on safari too!

 

 

 

~ @@Atravelynn

 

What?

You're also a Dame of the Order of the Zorilla?

Hmph!

Concerning a double leopard cub sighting — as yours truly has yet to ever see a leopard or lion cub — if I had a sprinkling of the ‘leopard luck’ which liberally attends @@Tdgraves, @@TonyQ & @@Thursday's Child, I'd find it difficult to stop grinning.

We do indeed want double leopard cubs whenever and wherever possible!

** Double Leopard Cubs in 2016! **

Tom K.

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Really enjoying your trip report. Love the pictures of the cheetahs, especially the one yawning with a foot up close to his head. Your night-time leopard pictures are outstanding also. The spot light must have cast a very natural appearing light or you are skilled at post-processing. My spotlight photographs have yielded bright orange results which I have found hard to correct.

 

Great photographs also of the aardvarks, meerkats, and sables. It is good to know right there in South Africa there is more to see then the Big Five or even the Magnificent Seven of Kruger NP.

 

Thanks for posting. Terry

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Tdgraves

Day 4 Morning Drive 4/9/15

 

We had watched a cold front approaching from the Cape since we landed on the first day and today it had reached us. It was considerably colder, cloudy and windy. Due to the weather conditions, there was not much game around and consequently this, our last drive, was the quietest of our stay. Given that our flight left at 10am, there was no particular plan and we just drove around.

 

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We stopped for coffee at the foot of a hill, to try and shelter from the wind. While we were having coffee, we had a new bird species, a pririt batis

 

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We slowly made our way to the airstrip to meet our plane. We tried to warm up in the arrivals area, although it has no walls...

 

Some sociable weavers were living in the roof

 

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We said our farewells to our guide and tracker and got onto the plane. The cloud cover was thick all the way to Johannesburg, which was an issue for the OH. He gets travel sick on small planes and his travel sickness pills had disappeared (maybe in the laundry), so it was mind over matter and the journey felt very long to him! When we landed in Johannesburg, it was 8 degrees, having been 28 degrees on the day we left. Brrrrr. Traffic was bad.

 

We had lunch at our friends house, where we stayed the night and then went to meet another friend, who we met in Mashatu last year, who happened to be in Joburg visiting her son. After dinner at our friends club, we had an early night. There was a huge storm and it rained all night and when we left for Mashatu the next morning, there was still torrential rain, which lasted until we were about an hour and a half north of Joburg. Given that Mashatu is in Botswanwa, I will write that as a separate TR (after I get back from the Kruger) and continue this one in Welgevonden, our final stop.

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Tdgraves

We also had a go at some night sky photography, with limited success. We do not have a wide angle lens and have had little practice!

 

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I wanted to have a go at some star trails. Although it was really dark in the reserve, in order to point south, the camera was pointing towards the lodge and so there was a fair amount of light pollution, so these long exposures had quite a lot of post-processing. If we had been in room 1 and not room 9, this would not have been an issue. At least we had worked out where to point the camera......

 

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I would say that we'll practice more in the Kruger, but the moon is fairly full when we are there :(

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Tdgraves

 

That black & white eland is a lovely way to conclude.

Your night sky photo is lovely.

Please do enjoy Kruger. Yours truly will be nearby, hoping that you and your OH have a delightful visit.

Thank you for this exceptional trip report.

Tom K.

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@@Tdgraves

 

Night skies photography is all about sturdy tripod and light gathering: the widest lens, the largest aperture, the longest shutter speed, the highest ISO. Pretty much down to the equipment, I would dare to say.

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Tdgraves

Day 11 Evening game drive, Makweti, Welgevonden, 11/9/15

 

We had left the morning game drive at Mashatu early to be taken to the border post, with a packed breakfast. It was a long drive to Welgevonden on mostly regional roads (approx. 5 hours) and although we had arranged a late arrival, we did not wish to miss the evening game drive. So it was best foot forward. We had told the lodge we would arrive at 3 and we were there by 2.50, so not bad planning. We were slightly nervous for the last 30 mins or so, as there were no road signs. Even with a satnav, we were unconvinced! It had got hotter and hotter as we had driven south and the wait at the gate to be collected could have done with a pool! We were to check in to the lodge and then be taken out to meet the game drive vehicle, which was leaving soon after our driver had left the lodge to collect us. It was a pleasant 30 minute drive up to the lodge, but there was little game to stop for this time. A quick tour around the room and the application of sun lotion and we were off back out again in under 5 minutes. The game drive had not got too far from the lodge. Before we met up, we had a close encounter with some klipspringer.

 

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And a little sparrowhawk flew over with a kill in its' talons (too fast for a photo)

 

As were emerged onto the plain, we were faced by three white rhino and our game drive.

 

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The rhinos moved away and the vehicles were repositioned so that we could move between them. Our new safari buddies were first time safari goers from Germany and we were to share the vehicle for the next three days. Our guide Gary explained that the larger male rhino (above) had been chasing off the two younger ones from his territory.

 

It is really good when your guide is also into photography, as it means they know where and when to stop the vehicle. Gary carried his camera on game drives and the light through the dust caught his eye.

 

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He had heard on the radio about a lion sighting and although it was a bit of a trek, he felt it was worth it, given it was the other couples first ever game drive. So off we went. And the light was fading, so the photographer in me was getting antsy. What's the point of getting to a sighting when it is too dark? Anyway, just as these thoughts popped into my head, we arrived. Of course it was worth it - cubs!!

 

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Believe me, it was a lot darker than these 5D photos make out....(the wonder of technology!)

 

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We had sundowners in the dark and the other couple were beginning to understand to draw of safari. The night drive back gave us a new species, Jameson's red rock rabbit. Gary was very excited about this!

 

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Tdgraves

@@Tdgraves

 

Night skies photography is all about sturdy tripod and light gathering: the widest lens, the largest aperture, the longest shutter speed, the highest ISO. Pretty much down to the equipment, I would dare to say.

 

@@xelas all of those ticked, except our widest lens is 50mm. Our non-equipment issue was focusing to infinity ;)

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