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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 bi

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. T

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

@@TonyQ - Yes, at first when I posted the video I had the wrong link, rhino again instead of warthogs. There is nothing about the link name that alerts one to know its wrong until it is posted and then the video shows. I corrected it very quickly, but you must have been faster than me. So you weren't seeing things.

 

@@Atravelynn, Yes it was the waterhole and the hide that attracted us to the Bush House. At first I was looking at combining Mashatu with Kruger, but getting to Mashatu was a very long day by car or an expensive plane trip plus car ride. And they charge to use their hide at $65 US for four hours. The time period appears to be set so that I figured one would miss a drive. It made the Bush House look like a bargain.

 

The Bush House web site features a web cam so we knew ahead of time that a lot of animals use the waterhole. They also post a lot of pictures that people have taken at the water hole and shared with them. Even the predators have come in to drink, although we didn't see any at the waterhole.

 

DH's hip pain eased as the days of the safari went on. He continued to use the cane, but by the end he was able to put weight on his leg for short periods of time. We were glad we decided to go.

 

@@SafariChick When we got the Sabi Sands, a women manager started asking me how I like the lee-o-pods. Now that one confused me for a while.

 

Thanks to all of you for stopping by, so good to hear from you.

 

Terry

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That night as we slept, the wild dogs chased an impala in a fence at the Bush House and took it down near the waterhole. The next morning the dogs were gone and there was no sign of the trauma that had been inflicted during the middle of the night. On the drive Greg found the dogs not far away, but they were on the move. We saw them once as we were traveling up a high hill on a narrow track, they were running down.

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The lead dog put his head close to the ground and gave what Greg called “a contact call.” It is a strange sound, not a bark or a howl, more like a whine, but Greg said the sound could carry along distance. The matted hair on the adult dogs’ shows that they got to feed first on the impala, even so the puppies’ tummies are bulging.

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When Greg got the vehicle turned around and drove back down the trail, the dogs were gone. Madikwe has had multiple packs of wild dogs and at least twice now rabies outbreaks have decimated the population. There is just this one pack left with nine mostly fully-grown puppies. As soon as rabies is discovered, the remaining dogs are vaccinated, but by then it is usually too late for most of the dogs will have been already exposed.

 

Greg finally found buffalo for us in a terrain with scrubby trees, more bushes than trees, all black and no leaves, they made the area look like it had burned. Greg assured us the trees were naturally that way, just dormant and waiting for the rain. Seeing the buffalo at Madikwe wasn’t important to us, because we knew we would see large herds at the next lodges we were to visit, but Greg was pleased that we had now seen the Magnificent 7 (Big five plus the wild dog and cheetah). I added the brown hyena, the black-backed jackal, and the black rhino and gave us credit for the Magnificent 10.

 

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@@Terry

 

Brown hyena which I've never seen and wild dogs alone make for a magnificent safari. I've never even considered South Africa for some reason but you're report along with 1 other I read recently may give pause to consider. I had never even heard of Klaserie and after looking it up it looks quite interesting and something to consider so thanks for this report and I look forward to reading more.

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Atravelynn

@@Atravelynn, Yes it was the waterhole and the hide that attracted us to the Bush House. At first I was looking at combining Mashatu with Kruger, but getting to Mashatu was a very long day by car or an expensive plane trip plus car ride. And they charge to use their hide at $65 US for four hours. The time period appears to be set so that I figured one would miss a drive. It made the Bush House look like a bargain.

 

A hide charge? I've never heard of such a thing. If you are staying at Mashatu, you have to pay extra to visit the hide? I can understand paying extra to mountain bike, which can be done there, but to sit at the hide?? I'd still like to visit Mashatu, hide fees or not. Very interesting info!

 

You're lucky the pups appeared. How sad about the rabies. I suppose the vaccines help keep it in check. Magnificent 10 is hard to beat!

Edited by Atravelynn
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Tdgraves

a hide charge? I've never heard of such a thing. If you are staying at Mashatu, you have to pay extra to visit the hide? I can understand paying extra to mountain bike, which can be done there, but to sit at the hide?? I'd still like to visit Mashatu, hide fees or not. Very interesting info

 

@@Atravelynn it's because it is run by an external photographic safari company. So you are in effect paying for photographic tutorial/private guide for half or whole days. It is not like a hide in other camps where you can just wander into it. It is an underground bunker that you have to be driven to.

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The “Punk Rock Lion Pride” - named for their pink manes.

 

 

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While we stared at the lions, the lions were staring at something in the bush and Greg was staring at the bush trying to see what the lions were staring at. Finally he saw another black-backed jackal running through the brush.

 

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At last!

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I love my Daddy, especially when he smells of food!

 

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I had to post all four of the cub and male nuzzling. I love 'em!

 

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Make room for me.

 

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Now that I am safe between my two parents, I can look at the intruders.

 

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This was the only sighting of male lions we had on this safari and the only time on either safari where we saw lion cubs interacting with their parents or male lions engage in bonding with each other and with the cubs. The memories and the photographs of this sighting we treasure above all others.

Edited by Terry
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That was the last of our eight game drives hunting for animals at The Bush House, our first of three safari lodges. It was back to the lodge for breakfast and to pack our bags for the return to the hotel at Johannesburg. However, the animals started coming to the waterhole and we ran down to the far edge of the lawn to photograph them.

 

Who would willingly leave behind scenes like this before the very last minute?

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No where will I ever attempt to pack my bags in front of more interesting spectators.

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Mud bath time -

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When our transfer came, we were not done packing. We just stuffed the rest enough so we could close the luggage.

 

There is no way to get from Madikwe to Klaserie Reserve in one day and not miss a game drive. After a night in a hotel at Johannesburg airport, we flew the next morning to Hoedspruit from Johannesburg and from there we had a transfer to Gomo Gomo by Sable tours and Transfers.

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More spectacular elephant shots from the hide, and great you saw the dogs.
The male lion may be a coward, but at 8 years and good condition maybe he has the right idea!

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Atravelynn

Nice family scenes with the lion pride. A resounding success at Bush House.

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The first place we agreed on for this safari was Gomo Gomo Game Lodge in the Klaserie Reserve as it was the favorite of our first safari. Their waterhole is right in front of the lodge with a large wooden veranda that extends out to the edge of the water. There are large trees for shade and chairs for sitting and watching the animals come to us. WIFI reaches out to the end of the veranda so we could easily send updates home while the elephants drink in front of us. On our first safari the sightings at Gomo Gomo had been spectacular. Our guide told us not to expect game drives like we had then on every visit, but we surely did.

 

Gomo Gomo is kept in a much more natural state than either of the other two lodges we booked for this trip. There is no green grass to mow, no landscaped gardens, and no seed scattered for the birds. No one greeted us with wet wash clothes or tiny goblets of alcoholic beverages after game drives. The room lacked a box of tissues, small stuff I know, considering how much lower the rack rate is compared to the other lodges, but I missed the tissues.

 

First thing we have to do when we arrive at Gomo Gomo is to go check out the waterhole. They are not pumping as much water as they used to or maybe the water level was lower due to the 400 head of buffalo that came in the day before we arrived which was followed by large breeding herd of elephants. They said that the water went down a foot.

The crocodile had grown in the past two years.

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The grey heron still fishes on the south side of the waterhole.

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An African Spoonbill feeds in the shallows.

 

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Nine minutes after we arrived, we saw our first kill – right there at the waterhole. The spoonbill has caught a tadpole.

 

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Our ranger was Lou and he asked if anyone wanted to sit in the passenger seat next to him on our first drive. DH, with his pain in his hip, gladly accepted the offer and took the seat for all the remaining drives. The vehicle had been around for a few years. The doors were banged and beat up from driving off-road. The cars would stall, be hard to restart, none of the gauges worked, but we always got where we wanted to go. The front window, which is dropped down for game drives, was shattered on the vehicle. The story goes a tracker sitting out in front on his throne once lost his nerve when an elephant appeared to be charging. The tracker scooted back on the hood of the car and landed on the window.

 

The first animals on our first drive were nine rhinos of which only four lined up in a row for their photo.

 

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It was good to be back in bushveld rather than in thornveld and driving through green bushes and past large trees. This tree has been damaged by elephants.

 

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Another ranger had spotted a drag mark made by a leopard dragging a kill to a ravine. By time we got to the ravine it was pitch dark and we had to view the leopard by spotlight - one of those spotlights that turn the animals into strange orange creatures. The leopard was utterly exhausted by the effort of making the kill and then dragging it to the ravine. She needed recovery time before she could think about eating.

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As we were sitting there watching the leopard, Lou told us that the week before he and a guest were watching a leopard when the guest put a very long lens on his camera and extended it over the side of the car. Suddenly the leopard made a flying leap and hit the side of the lens. Guess it didn’t do the lens any good, but the camera was survived. The guest missed the picture, of course.

 

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@Terry

 

I'm just getting caught up on this report - holy cow did Madikwe andthe bushhouse deliver! Brown hyena, wild dogs, male greater kudu, black and white rhinos, etc., what a fantastic start to your safari!

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In the early mornings when we were at the lodge for our first coffee of the day, this Southern Red-billed Hornbill was always there to greet us.

 

 

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These wildebeests are on soil red enough to make me check twice that they are not misplaced from Madikwe.

 

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Mila and Lisa - the Bad-luck female lions

 

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These two female lions were born into the Ross Pride and left to start their own Pride. They both have given birth to cubs multiple times but neither has raised any young to adulthood. Lou called them “Bad Mothers”. We had been following Gomo Gomo’s Facebook posts this fall about Mila’s most recent two cubs. They were two little males born about the middle of August, doing well, the posts were saying. The middle of October the rangers were taking guests to see them and pictures started to appear on Facebook. We were really looking forward to see them. Then the day before we left home this post appeared on Facebook.

 

“Mila's 2 cubs were sadly killed by 6 other lions from the Hercules pride. There was a warthog kill that the Hercules pride made a few days ago and Mila and Lisa were in the area as well. We viewed the cubs with Mila and Lisa and about 20 minutes after we left the area, the Hercules pride chased the females away and killed the cubs.”

 

Lou was still watching the cubs with his guests at the time the Hercules pride came and he told us he could have used the car to drive off the other lions, but he couldn’t interfere with nature. His guests were so upset with him and with seeing the cubs killed, they told him just to take them back to the lodge and forget about the rest of the drive. Lou blamed Mila and Lisa because they made no attempt to fight the other lions and protect their cubs. I guess six against two were not good odds in the minds of Lisa and Mila.

 

Lou found a herd of buffalo at a waterhole that he estimated to be about four hundred individuals. They were as interested in the mud as they were the water.

 

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This one has done a good job of getting a covering of mud - even her left eye is plastered shut. If she doesn’t get that tail moving, it will be stuck there for a while.

 

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Back at the lodge, a male elephant came to the waterhole to get a drink and then he crossed over to the muddy side of the pond to blow mud on himself.

 

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A large male kudu came next to get a drink. After several female kudo also came to drink, he walked over to a nearby green bush and thrashed it with his horns.

 

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The Squacco Heron was the first and the only one we have found in South Africa.

 

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In the middle of the waterhole at the lodge is a small island with a dead tree which has been used for many years by weaver birds. An Egyptian Goose was spending a lot of time on top of the weavers’ nests. The Egyptian Goose-duck does nest in trees and this seemed likely seemed like a made-in-heaven place to her.

 

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Around the edge of the waterhole were a couple of Brown-headed Kingbirds, probably the juveniles, while the mother appeared to be was hiding from them out there in the weaver nest tree.

 

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On the game drive Lou drove far and he drove fast, but in spite of his best intentions I took only one picture during the three-hours.

 

A brown-toned female Red-crested Korhaan.

 

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Edited by Terry
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Our first sighting on the morning drive was of a pair of male giraffes necking, but it wasn’t love. It was not combat to main or kill either - this time. “Just practicing,” Lou told us. In a serious sparring contest, the winner usually is the taller of the two. We could not hear or see that they were actually hitting each other. They just seemed to be dancing a graceful waltz together.

 

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The male giraffes spots darken as he ages so we called the one in front the oldest.

 

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Normally male giraffes keep their distance from each other and stay at least twenty yards part, but this third male had moved in close and looked like he was just waiting there so he could neck with the winner and proclaim himself “alpha male.” His spots are the lightest of the three giraffes, making him the youngest so it may have been only wishful thinking on his part.

 

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Giraffes start out by moving still-legged into parallel positions, rub heads and necks, and then twine necks all the better to assess their opponent’s weight. They aim their blows at each other’s neck and attempt to dampen any impacts by leaning away, always rocking with the blows to avoid damage.

 

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All three giraffes were still focused on each other as they worked their way back behind the trees where we could not see them.

 

Two different species of vultures, White-backed and Lappet-faced, were in the area, either flying around or sitting in trees. There probably was a kill nearby, but the rangers hadn’t found it.

 

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Warthog

 

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Gomo Gomo with its low rates seemed to attract a majority of young clientele, who, I am sure, figured DH and I were ancient. They seemed to think if they talked to us, we would regale them with stories of our aches and pains. Then I heard one of them say that they had wanted to go to Egypt to visit a friend last summer, but were afraid to go. So I blurted out that we traveled independently to Egypt for two weeks in April and had a great time. Then everything changed. We were their heroes, their inspiration; they could only hope they would still travel at our age. They wanted to be friends on Facebook so they could follow our travels - once they got over their amazement that we were even on Facebook.

 

Afternoon visitors to the lodge waterhole. Photographed between struggles to figure out Facebook – at our age. B)

 

Female waterbuck

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A few of the thousand impala, we are always told by our ranger, we will see.

 

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Green Wood-Hoopoe

 

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Common Greenshank

 

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Green-Backed Heron

 

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The crocodile came up slowly to the edge of the veranda. He was swinging his tail and the frogs and fish were just a jumping to get out of his way. Then he settled down in the water, opened his mouth and appeared to be sleeping.

 

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Something made the mistake of entering his trap for he snapped his snoot shut and gave a powerful half turn like he was pulling a large animal into the the water to drown it. Then he settled down in the water again to wait his next victim.

 

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On the afternoon drive - Steenbok

 

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Red-billed Oxpeeker

 

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Red elephant.

 

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The male elephant looks peaceful enough here, but he showed us a different side of his personality just a few minutes after this.

 

We stopped for sun-downers at a waterhole with a high lookout-tower alongside of it which all of the guests climbed, except for DH and me. We went looking for thick bushes where the people on high could not look down on us. First two rhinos came to drink.

 

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Then the large male elephant came and was quite disturbed to find people at his waterhole when he wanted a drink. He started trumpeting and making aggressive moves that plainly demanded that we leave his waterhole right then. Elephants look 50 feet tall when you are standing on the ground with only flimsy bushes between you and him.

 

We made our way back to the car and climbed inside as the elephant continued showing his displeasure as he came forward. The tracker started toward the elephant, yelling, clapping, and jumping in the air, flapping his jacket, all to appear as large as possible. The elephant decided it was better to leave than have to face whatever that creature was, but he protested all the way.

 

When Lou came back, he was told us he was relieved to see us sitting in the vehicle. He could see the elephant, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it from his position in the in the bushes. I would show you pictures of the threatening elephant and the tracker risking his life, but I was either too fascinated or too stressed to take any.

Edited by Terry
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@@Terry

 

It must be a North America thing as everyone I know says Zee-bra. That lion has a solid beauty plan!

One thing I learned on safari, we call these animals “Zee-bras” and most everyone else it seemed called them “Zeb-ras.” I find it funny that those that say Zee-bra usually say Ken (like the guy's name) ya. Those that say Zeb (rhymes with web) ra usually say Keen-ya. When I'm with others who say Zebra or Kenya a different way from me, I get nervous about saying it the way I'm used to. But then it seems weird and not genuine for me to pronounce it differently.

 

 

 

@@Atravelynn @@dlo @@Terry

 

This is what I learned about pronunciation, thanks to 3 weeks in Kenya, June-July 2013 and another 2 weeks in May 2015 - can't wait to return to Ken-ya (and yes, am in US and grew up with Keen-ya pronunciation, but have changed to Ken-ya out of respect for their independence...):

 

Keen-ya is British pronunciation. Ken-ya is native Kenyans, whatever color, and also zeh- bra was the standard pronunciation among all the various wildlife guides - Maasai, Samburu etc etc. It seems that saying Keen-ya marks one as a leftover British colonialist in Kenya, but no one seemed bothered by the Americanized zee-bra - although I find myself picking up on the local rhythms and speech patterns by osmosis...

 

I spent a lot of time with Maasai warriors my first time in Kenya. They were great - always asking me, Sawa? (Okay?) and because of their still rather lovely Brit colonial English accents, I started replying in what little Swahili I had picked up: Ndio, veddy veddy sawa (yes, very very okay). The Maasai adopted the veddy veddy sawa -- they thought it was hilarious. It will be interesting if they still use it when I'm back at Speke's, I hope, in November...

 

@@Terry again: I love Kenya - I hope you and DH get to visit there. If you have a budget, no worries: contact Tamsin@africanterritories.co.ke and discuss what you want and ask her to set up an itinerary within your budget. She books for Speke's Camp in the Mara and the rates there are very reasonable, whatever the season, plus the hospitality and the food are fabulous, and the wildlife guides are really wonderful Maasai. No, I don't get a commission for sending people to Tamsin at New African Territories, but she knows everyone (born and raised Kenyan) and she has about 30 years in the safari/tourism industry. She thinks outside the box and will be able to book you into other camps/lodges, not just the ones she handles. Feel free to drop my name (Lauren), but be prepared if you do safari with NAT that I will ask you to let me use your photos and interview you for a story about your Kenya safari - I give back to Kenya and Africa by writing about it - and I rarely charge for my stories, even though I am a 3-time national award-winning writer, which is how I earn my living. Tamsin is a dear friend - as honest as the day is long, her husband Chris Brennan is an amazing wildlife guide and photographer who was consulted on the BBC's Big Cat Diaries. They're lovely people. Tamsin is especially good with the local communities - has trained many to be employed as lodge staff, etc. She's very active in wildlife conservation, etc. I really encourage you to contact her - you might find yourself enjoying the safari of a lifetime in Kenya!

 

PS Terry - wonderful photos! I can't tell you how itchy I am to download a few just to have to look at, especially the eles from the blind at Bush House! Thank you for sharing them on ST!!!!

Edited by Lala
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Here is a short video shot by DH at the edge of the veranda of the crocodile at Gomo Gomo waterhole.

 

 

P.S. I also just was rereading the trip report and noticed I called the Grey-headed Kingfishers. "Brown-headed Kingbirds." Yikes! Of course now it is too late to correct the name.

 

The yellow on the edge of the wings is why I named them as juvenile Grey-headed Kingfishers.

 

Additional help with names will be appreciated.

Edited by Terry
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pomkiwi

@@Terry Thank-you for this eport, I'm enjoying it a lot. I particularly like the unique perspective from the hide at Madikwe.

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@pomkiwi @Lala @PT123 Big_Dog @Atravelynn @dio @@Alexander33 @Michael_ibk @@Tdgraves

 

Thanks for taking the time to follow along with my story of this trip. I appreciate your comments very much - they make the time spent assembling it all worth while.

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@@Terry

A great giraffe sequence. I enjoyed reading about your encounter with the elephant (and am glad you survived to tell us about it!)

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Terry

 

WOW! WOW! WOW!

Reading through your trip report is both inspiring and delightful!

Really!

Your style, both as to commentary and photographs, brings to mind cinéma vérité, i.e. observational documentaries.

I absolutely unreservedly love it!

To have you writing this while @@TonyQ and @@offshorebirder are writing about Kenya and @@madaboutcheetah is writing about Botswana is an embarrassment of trip report riches.

I love your tactful, gracious style of responding to others. Your photos of wood-hoopoes, crocodiles, steenboks, and rhinos consistently elicit awe from me.

Your trip report has this uncanny knack of placing the reader along with you and your husband, such that it feels bracingly real!

Both Madikwe and Bush House you've presented with style and pizzazz! Makes me think much more about them as options on any return visit to lovely South Africa.

Gomo Gomo's waterhole crocodile is formidable. As mentioned above, your crocodile images are tops in all respects.

What comes through in entry after entry, as well as in your gracious replies to others, is how much you love and respect African wildlife.

You seem like the sort of person with whom it would be a great joy to share a safari vehicle.

BTW: Until reading this trip report I had never once realized that there were various pronunciations for either zebra or Kenya. Color me oblivious!

Thank you so much for preparing and sharing such a fun and informative trip report.

It's deservedly exhausted my daily supply of ‘Likes’!

Tom K.

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Atravelynn

"They are not pumping as much water as they used to or maybe the water level was lower due to the 400 head of buffalo that came in the day before we arrived which was followed by large breeding herd of elephants."

 

I was surprised how a herd can deplete water running in a river when buffalo herds had their fill at Chitake, Mana Pools. So why not the same thing for a waterhole.

 

How cute you can keep tabs on the growth of the resident croc. My how you've grown! You got some nice splashy action shots with the croc. An active fellow in the video too.

 

If that long lens was moving around at all, it could be like playing fishing pool with a domestic cat. They can't help themselves from going after "moving prey."

 

I'd crash a window too if I thought it was get attacked by an ele herd or get cut by a windshield. Yikes! It appears you almost had your own ele-tracker confrontation.

 

Nice crash of rhinos!

 

Really like that squacco shot showing the white and beige contrast.

 

You know how to pick the waterholes!

Edited by Atravelynn
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I can see how that tree is special to the eles, especially in the second video on the last page.

Your pied crow shot is a good one.

The crocodile partially submerged on this page is marvelous. The video is even better. Such elegant, sinuous movements. I've yet to see a croc actually move that much, let alone hunt!

 

When I'm with others who say Zebra or Kenya a different way from me, I get nervous about saying it the way I'm used to. But then it seems weird and not genuine for me to pronounce it differently.

 

 

This made me laugh, as it's a conundrum I have also faced.

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Our next day got off with a fast start before the game drive at the lodge waterhole with a Egyptian Goose.

 

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A Grey Duiker came in for a drink, very cautious, but determined. It was our only sighting of a duiker this trip and the best opportunity I ever had to photograph one showing the crest on top of his head.

 

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On the game drive Lou found the failed-mother lions again, only today Lisa and Mila had been successful in stealing the remains of a leopard kill and we had entertaining lions at Gomo Gomo at last.

 

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Back at the lodge, the Vervet Monkeys were checking out the boma area. One had an itch and the other was counting his toes.

 

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At the lodge waterhole --

 

The elephant and the male kudu came back again to drink. They were followed by a small group of buffalo.

 

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The crocodile returned to the edge of the water right up to the end of the veranda below our chairs. This time when he snapped his jaws shot, we could see his kill which looked like a koi to me.

 

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Dinner was served by 8 P.M., always on time, and usually in the boma if the weather was good. This is the chef announcing the menu and inviting the ladies to go first through the serving line.

 

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We were roused out of chalet the next morning by a raucous, screeching “krr kik-ik-ik” up on our roof arising from a Natal Spurfowl. I tried to convince the bird we had set an alarm, the ranger had called us, we didn’t need his help getting to the game drive on time, but he insisted on helping us anyway.

 

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A vervet monkey was back on the wooden fence around the boma. These monkeys are slow learners for they have yet to learn to steal food off people’s plates or from the buffet tables.

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A female giraffe with hairy, slender horns, compared to the male giraffe that is.

 

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Young spotted hyenas at a den - so much cuter than the adults.

 

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One more beautiful steenbok, I love those little antelopes.

 

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Then an adult and a juvenile Southern Ground Hornbill crossed the road in front of us and were on the move to hide in the bush. We were on our way back to camp at the end our last game drive so we were lucky to see them. This was our first sighting of the ground hornbill.

 

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That ended our hunt for the wild animals of the Klaserie Reserve for this trip. We saw the Big Five, including entertaining lions, and a leopard, so we can’t complain about our total sightings. Other highlights of our stay were the grey duiker at the water hole, the necking giraffes, the African spoonbill, and Southern Ground Hornbill.

 

We still are looking for the white lion pride so once again we have a reason to return, but maybe to Timbavati Reserve next time. But it was not the end of the hunt for us; we still had four more nights of safari in Sabi Sands to go. At the time we never would have guessed this was the last reserve in which we would see the Big Five.

Edited by Terry
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Alexander33

Great giraffe sequence, and I'm so envious of your Ground Hornbills. I have yet to see one after two trips to South Africa.

 

Can't wait to ride along with you next to Sabi Sand.

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