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The Return to the Hunt in Madikwe, Klaserie, and Sabi Sands


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The Return to the Hunt in Madikwe, Klaserie, and Sabi Sands


We cannot eat just one potato chip nor could we convince ourselves that just one safari to Africa was enough. The safari bug had bitten us; we had the craving, so we had to return to hunt wild animals again even if our first safari was our “trip of a lifetime.” The last week of October of 2015, we returned for our second safari certain that the African bush still held surprises for us.


Our first lodge was The Bush House of northwestern Madikwe chosen for the waterhole and a hide right at the edge of the front lawn. We arrived by van with a private transfer from a hotel at the airport in Johannesburg in the early afternoon after a four-hour journey. We didn’t cross much of the Madikwe Reserve before we reached The Bush House, but it was enough miles of desolate, parched land for us to appreciate the green grass of the front lawn of the lodge as a lovely, inviting oasis.


We no sooner completed the paper work to sign all our legal rights away when we saw elephants at the waterhole. Nothing says Africa like elephants! Now we were in Africa!


We grabbed our cameras and ran for the hide which has an underground tunnel as the entrance way so that the animals cannot see people coming. The mid-day sun was unrelenting, creating black shadows and almost silhouettes. The harsh light was the something we had to deal with every day of this safari. We had no clouds and no rain. It was supposed to be the start of the rainy season, but not this year.




The viewing seemed to have turned into a staring contest and I was losing. Six pairs of eyes beat one behind a camera lens every time.


About now I felt a little intimidated. I knew I was safe from being squashed, but I wondered if the elephant had ever sprayed the people clicking at him at such close range.



Around the elephant’s feet were a Blacksmith Lapwing adult and a juvenile. Now they were living dangerously.




Do you see that little, bright-red “V” in front of the elephant leg in the pictures above? It is a Red-Veined Darter.



The Bush House is a small lodge with six rooms with only one facing the lawn and the waterhole and we had it. It was perfect!



The hide at the Bush house is a very pleasant place. It comes with a small refrigerator with drinks, bean bags for under the cameras, has chairs with backs; and if one gets alarmed at something, there is a heavy grate that quickly drops down over the viewing slot. The hide was cleaned and the chairs were returned to a straight line against the railing every time I went there. The six-inch millipedes which came in to feed at night were all tossed out every morning.



For our second safari I dreamed grand dreams of Kenya or Botswana, but in the end we choose twelve nights in three of the South Africa reserves, Madikwe, Klaserie, and Sabi Sands.

Madikwe Reserve went our list because of the chance of seeing animals rarely or never seen in the Greater Kruger National Park such as brown hyena, black rhino, gemsbok, hartebeest, and eland. The white lions of Timbavati and Klaserie reserves had eluded us on our first hunt. Maybe a second try will be a charm. We would go back to Sabi Sands, nothing to discuss about that choice. Where else could we dream of a leopard on every game drive?


For selecting the lodges, criteria number one was waterholes situated near enough to the lodge so we could observe the animals during the mid-day down time and the second was a hide that we could use any time we wished and not interfere with the time spent on game drives nor incur extra expense to use it. Our retired-educator budget does limit our choices for lodges as does our affinity for smaller lodges; we don’t need or want a spa, a gym, or a butler on safari, just wild animals and birds.



Our safari was booked using Rhino Africa Safaris. I started the planning using another company, but when they gave me their proposal, it had only a small discount from the rack rates so I contacted Rhino Africa. The percentage of their discount was more in line with what I had received two years ago so we let RAS book the safari. I did all my own flights with RAS booking the transfers in addition to the lodges and the two hotel nights in Johannesburg.


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Great start, Terry.


I love the shots of the elephants. The angle from the hide really gives you a sense of just how immense they are.

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"We cannot eat just one potato chip nor could we convince ourselves that just one safari to Africa was enough."

Welcome to Safaritalk!
Nice pics to launch things off...eager to see if you got your brownie...

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Our ranger for the first two days was Corinne. We had good sightings on our game drives even though the Bush House does not employ trackers. There is only one other lodge in the reserve that does. The rangers share sightings of the predators, but every guide is expected to find their own general game and to refrain from ever using the word “rhino” over the radio. At the start of the first drive I told Corrine she was going to be extra lucky the two days she was guiding us and she would see a brown hyena, a black rhino, a gemsbok, a cheetah, and a pangolin. By the time I got to pangolin she was laughing and interrupted me saying “I would love to see a pangolin”. I guessed my chances of seeing a pangolin weren’t very good. At least she didn’t laugh at the cheetah on my list; it was the animal DH [Dear Husband] and I most wanted to see.


The red earth of Madikwe colors the zebras, the elephants, and even the rhinos red.




This waterhole to us was quintessential Africa! We had giraffes, rhino, and elephants all together in one view.



Two elephant mothers, both with newborn calves, came to the waterhole that evening.



The first baby elephant with his mother still has his umbilical cord hanging down. It’s brown and dry, but still there. Corrine guessed he was only about a couple of days old



The baby’s legs and belly still show a pink stain from the birthing process.


The baby’s legs and belly still show a pink stain from the birthing process.



The baby elephant was walking, but it was not yet an automatic process. After lifting a foot up, he would hesitate before setting it back down.



The slanting ground around the water hole was a challenge. We watched his mother use her trunk in an attempt to help him climb out of the depression.

When he couldn’t make it, she guided him closer to the water source where the incline was gentler.




On the far left is the second mother with another tiny baby coming to the waterhole.



The second baby was just a little older then the first.



He had gained better control of his legs which was important for what happened next.


The first mother went over to the second baby and gave him a push which caused him to stagger, but he remained upright.


The second mother didn’t see the push, but heard her baby make a distress call. She whorled around with her ears raised, ready to defend her baby if she saw anything amiss.



The first mother than went over to the second and came very close to tapping their heads together to let her know to stay away. The second mother just stood there on alert, but did not react.




The second baby has a slight amount of pink on the lower eyelid. Her mother’s hind legs appear to be showing signs of having given birth recently.





The first mother left and the second moved up to the water to get a drink.


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This rhino has a hunk of mud stuck on his horn.




When we stopped for sundowners with the sun still high in the sky, Corinne told us her goal was to be driving into the Bush House driveway in the evening as the sun set at 6:30. “What? No night drives by spotlight to see predators?” I asked. That night and the next one also she drove us back to the lodge after sunset and attempted to use the spotlight on the sides of the road and to drive on it at the same time, but as she swerved from side to side it was easy to tell this was one skill she had not practiced before.

When darkness fell, the western sky reflected the lights of the city of Gaborone, Botswana. We were so thankful to be at the Bush House rather than sitting in a plane on a Gaborone airport runway as we had been at that time the night before.


The cheapest airplane flights we found for both trips to Johannesburg from central Wisconsin, USA, have included a 17 hour flight from Washington, D.C., with a one-hour layover at Dakar where we are not allowed to deplane. We realize every flight where you walk off the plane is a good flight, but this time our 17 hours on the plane stretched to 21 hours and it definitely became a “bad trip”.


Our plane was actually landing at the Johannesburg airport, when suddenly our pilot yanked the nose of the plane up, rapidly accelerated, and totally aborted the landing. After we circled around and around over Johannesburg, the pilot finally announced that the plane in front of us had been damaged as it hit the ground and we could not land until the runway was cleared. In the meantime we would fly to Gaborone, Botswana, get refueled, and wait there. So that is how we got to Botswana this safari and hated every minute of the more than two hours which we sat in the plane at Gaborone looking over in the direction of Madikwe wishing we were there. We were twenty-one miles as a crow flies from The Bush House, but it might as have been a thousand for all we could do about getting there.


Dinner was served at The Bush House at 8 pm or as soon thereafter as someone took a place at a table. The other guests could spend time at the bar as they pleased and we could eat and go down to the hide or back to the room. Loved it!


We had just finished our dinner that first evening when the cry went up at the table, “Black rhino at the waterhole”. I had left my camera in our room. DH handed me the room key and I raced back to the room, grabbed the camera, glanced at the water hole, yes, rhino was still there. I ran into the hide, pushed a chair near the viewing area and started taking pictures only hoping that the shutter speed was fast enough. After I had taken about 20 photos, I figured I must have at least one sharp picture of my first black rhino and I put the camera down to look at him.


He had a wide mouth!




Then a voice from the other dark corner of the hide spoke up, “You are very lucky on your first evening here to see both a black Rhino and a white rhino. The black rhino drinks very quickly and then leaves, but this white rhino takes his time.” Hmmm, I guess I saw a black rhino from the dinner table, but it didn’t feel like it, because I never took the time to look at his mouth, and no, none of my pictures were of him.


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What a cruel irony to be sitting at the airport in Gaborone. Though it was a wide mouthed white rhino, that is a wonderfully sharp night shot. Even without the brown hyenas and pangolins, it is an excellent trip so far. The elephants have made up for it.

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Sorry to hear about your flight problems - very frustrating indeed. But I bet everything was forgotten after those first Elephants. The hide looks perfect, and you got great shots there. Few things are as charming as a new-born Elephant baby. Looking forward to more, let´s see about your Cheetahs - and Pangolins, of course. :)

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Those tiny baby elephants are delightful. It is alway a pleasure to see elephants - and such young ones even more so as theylearn to control their limbs and trunk!

A great start to your report.

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how cool that was to have six pairs of eyes gunning down at you!


so heartwarming to see those baby elephants - the areas look very dry and that waterhole look like it's drying up - dreadful to think if those babies will suffer if the rains don't come on time?

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@@Kitsafari, Ooops, so I saw six pairs of eyes on three elephants... Guess I should get my eyes checked! B)


The animals were hurting even when we were there. It is going to take a lot of water to refill the waterholes and reservoirs.


@Alexander33 @@Kitsafari @michael-ibk @Atravelynn @Big_Dog @@TonyQ Thanks to all of you for taking time to write a note. The comments make my day!

Edited by Terry
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@@Terry - lovely start. Just what I needed after a busy work week. That image from the hide of the three elephants is fantastic and I also like the night shot of the rhino as I know how hard night photography can be...especially when the sighting is an exciting one! The landscape looks very different to anywhere we have been on our travels but we have 3 nights at Madikwe at the end of this year so looking forward to more.


Thanks - deano.

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@@Terry I really need remedial classes in Maths or get a pair of new and young eyes!

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The rest of the story on the Black Rhino continues -


When I was running around hither and yon, DH made his way out on the lawn and took this video. After the first Rhino left, he then came in the hide

and took the second part.



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On the next morning game drive we stopped for a Crested Francolin -



And a Crowned Lapwing.





I guess one could say it was starting to be a quiet game drive. Normally the ranger looks for a dung beetle and shows that to their guests about now. Corrine showed us a gigantic millipede, a species of which several had been my companions in the hide the previous night.




Then Greg called her with the location of the lion pride. Corrine was able to show us the gemsbok sighting which I was wishing for, but now that I saw it, I didn’t appreciate it at all. I wouldn’t even take a picture of it. Two female lions had found him first so I cut the gemsbok, or what was left of it, out of my pictures. The reserve is full of impalas and zebras for the lions to eat, but, no, they had to eat the only gemsbok I had ever have seen in my life.


One of the lions was playing flat cats back in the bushes, and the other was more alert, on look-out duty and staring intently at something in the distance.





As we were watching the lion, Corrine was attempting to see what the lion was watching. “Brown hyena,” she told us, “the brown hyena often come scouting around after the predators make a kill, hoping something will be left for them.” It was a distance off and moving quickly through the bush. I have a photo, but it doesn’t pass muster.


Here is a very short video of the brown hyena, thanks to DH.



A black-backed jackal, our first, came running by, probably wondering if he was too late for left-overs.





Then we moved on to red rhinos and one had to wonder how they could survive on that poor quality grass.






There is no shade under those trees.




Edited by Terry
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@@Terry, really nice video of the Rhino drinking at the waterhole, interesting that even they are on alert, liked the ducks/geese paddling past. Boy it's desolate out there, those tiny baby eles are in for a tough start to life.Too bad your first Gemsbok turned out to be breakfast, I'm sure you wouldn't begrudge those Lioness that though.

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Great stuff @@Terry - the countryside is surely dry.

Looking forward to reading on with you.

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Brown hyena!! Very exciting.

I actually like the harsh light of a bright cloudless sky. It may be more challenging, but so beautiful.

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Even without the brown hyenas I got ahead of myself--you did get to see one and pangolins, it is an excellent trip so far. The elephants have made up for it.

How nice your millipede buddy greeted you the next day.


I guess Kenya or Botswana will have to wait for safaris #3 and #4 or #13 and #14!

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This short video is of the the baby elephant attempting to walk and it's overly concerned mother.


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Back at the Bush House and in the hide -















This is the only time I ever had a tortoise insist on looking down his noise at me.




Waterhole from the Bush House lawn




Usually the Tree Agamas were hiding in the heavy shade the same as we were.




The males tend to be bigger than the females, with a large head and a broad yellow/green vertebral stripe. They display a blue head during breeding season, when feeding and at the hottest parts of the day. Their colors change very quickly due to their scaling.




Violet Wood-Hoopoe. Or is it the Green Wood-Hoopoe? According to my bird book, The Complete Photographic Field Guide Birds of South Africa, the Violet is not supposed to be in South Africa, but the terrain is correct for the Violet - dry thornveld and mopane woodland. He looks violet to me.




Elephant from the lawn rather then the hide.



Edited by Terry
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@@Terry, the video of the baby Ele and Mum sure pulls at the heart strings, just so tiny and vulnerable out there

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I've never sat in a hide before but I love the perspective you got from there. Gotta love adorable baby elephants being adorable!

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THe video is great for showing the baby elephant - so cute! The perspective from the hide is spectacular.

And the contrast of the lawn with the landscape beyond the waterhole - amazing.

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On the afternoon game drive Corrine spotted the one and only ostrich in the Madikwe reserve. Once upon a time a flock of ostriches lived at the reserve, but the lions discovered they were great eating and now that last male ostrich lives a lonesome life.




Normally when the car stops for a steenbok, it takes about two seconds for them to flee. This one looked at us, hesitated, and walked a distance ahead and then stood by its mate lying on the ground. As the second steenbok made no effort to stand or flee, I still wonder if the second steenbok was OK. She looks pregnant; maybe she was giving birth. Corrine did not offer an opinion.




This grey heron of aquatic habitats is surely a victim of the relentless sun which has driven him to chasing a mirage through the bush.





Zebras at a waterhole.






Red-Crested Korhaan, the suicide bird.



Greg found the resident pride of lions again. It was always a female who was stuck with look out duty. The male was probably tired out from watching the females do the hunting the previous night.





Corrine told us these lions were much larger than the ones at Kruger, maybe a third again the size.


A few years back, the lions in Madikwe Reserve became so numerous, the reserve management team felt they had to reduce their numbers for fear all their general game would be depleted. Yes, Madikwe used birth control and sold as many as they could to other small reserves. Greg told us about 25 lions live in the reserve now. In reserves such as Timbavati or Klaserie which have unfenced boundaries with other reserves and Kruger National Park, lion numbers are kept down by the arrival of new dominant males from outside which assert themselves by killing the existing pride leaders and all of their offspring.

Edited by Terry
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