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3 weeks in South Africa in Nov/Dec 2015: the beginning of the Africa addiction


BieneMaja
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Your first two game drives at Kwandwe were excellent - great sightings, lovely photos.

Edited by TonyQ
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@@Atravelynn Absolutely! This, amongst other things, is one of the facts why we liked the game drives with Ivan so much. He only recently finished his guiding license but was so knowledgeable about everything, shared so many things and was extremely passionate about his job. After this, I knew why the more seasoned safari goers like to rely on a good guide and say that the guide can somewhat make or break the experience.

 

So true! When the guide can involve you in the process by sharing what they have learned, all the better.

 

@@Atravelynn I coudln't agree more. The learning was half the fun. We asked Ivan questions over questions and he could always answer them - and in one occasion he couldn't but came to us right after return with the answer and a book with photographs to illustrate it. Absolutely amazing. Even though we also had great sightings at Amakhosi, we enjoyed the game drives at Kwandwe more because we were always involved, knew what to look for, and got tons of new knowledge.

 

@@michael-ibk, @Koshy and @@TonyQ Thank you!

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For breakfast, you can chose from a selection of hot dishes and help yourself to cold dishes from the buffet. I chose amazing pancakes with blueberries, honey and bacon while my boyfriend had scrambled eggs with boerewors, tomato, bacon, mushrooms and beans. Both were very delicious. After breakfast, I booked a massage as I really liked their concept and would really like to have a massage after already driving more than 2,000km so far. Local girls can get an education for massages and will earn 50% of what I pay to the lodge for it. Kwandwe does not only focus on nature and wildlife conservation but also aims to support the local community.

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While having a rest in the room, we could even see animals from there! A nyala family came to feed close to our room. A little later even a few birds came to drink from the plunge pool. And while having lunch, we saw a few kudu and warthogs on the other side of the river.

 

For lunch, we had an amazing plate of tasty things again, this time with ostrich steaks. Oh and by the way, ask for their house rosé, it’s really an amazing wine. Red and white house wine is available in the bar and the mini bar in the room also, but not the rosé. I learned about it from a nice guy at the table next to ours. As both my boyfriend and I are into food and cooking, we had asked the nice girl who showed us to our room on the first day and works as a waiter if we could visit the kitchen at some point. She was always very friendly, happy and chatted with us for a bit and said “of course!” to our request. So after lunch, we were invited to visit the kitchen and talk to the cooks. It was really interesting to see their kitchen equipment compared to what we know of in German restaurant kitchens and taste what the output is… Everybody was smiling and happy that we came over.

 

A little later, it was time for my massage. The masseuse came over to my room and brought a portable massage bed to set up either in the room or on the patio outside depending on your wishes. And the massage was heavenly – the best one I have had for a long time. She did such a great job! I had a full body massage and felt so relaxed afterwards. A quick shower in the outside shower and soon it was time again for the afternoon tea and evening game drive!

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But I would like them even more at 90 degrees CW :D

Edited by xelas
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@@xelas I agree, but I don't know how to get those iPhone pictures to face the right way... with the DSLR it's no problem, but the iPhone photos look right in my folder, but wrong in the thread...

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Very pretty sable; their colors complement each other nicely.

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@@BieneMaja - just catching up on your Kwandwe visit and I am so glad that you've had good sightings and an enjoyable stay. Your image of that male giraffe with the hills in the background is just how I picture the Eastern Cape when I think about our trips there. And is there anything more enjoyable than afternoon tea knowing that you have a game drive immediately after?

 

Looking forward to your next installments.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Thanks for this great report @@BieneMaja and Welcome to ST.

I will be heading back to SA later this year in visit my In-laws and will be planning a safari or 2 :).

Edited by Hads
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@@Marks, @@deano and @@Hads thank you very much! And @@Hads, welcome to the trip report, I am glad you enjoy it. A return visit to South Africa sounds amazing!

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After a short afternoon tea, we went off for our third game drive ad Kwandwe. First sight were some yellow-tailed wildebeest that are apparently not very common but only exist in the area. We watched them running before they stopped to graze. A little later, a blue crane couple with their kids joined the party. The blue cranes are included in the Kwandwe logo and are not commonly seen, so it was great to watch them and their little ones. Beautiful birds. Next we came across a tortoise and some zebras. A little further down the street we spotted a lone elephant bull walking next to the road. He was completely covered in mud to protect his skin from the sun and ate a few leaves here and there. Then we saw our first steenbok. It was very shy. Next to it were a couple of kudu feeding from bushes. And only one minute further down the road, we saw our first oryx from a somewhat close distance.

 

As there is a mum cheetah with four 8 months old cubs on the property, we go to search them today. Driving their favorite places, we see red heartebeest, zebras, more oryx – and come across bat eared foxes. They were not that close, but we could identify two adults with three cubs. Behind them were five oryx. The foxes played a little bit and always stayed close to their hole in the ground. It was really nice to watch them. After driving around to see the cheetahs a lot, Ivan says that we have checked all their favorite places and he really expected them to be on the plains somewhere. In a last try, we drive the plains once more and get radioed by another Kwandwe guide – they have located the cheetahs!

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The five cheetahs were lying flatly on a hill in the area that we have checked. So great to see them! As the other vehicle has spent some time with the cheetahs while we drove there, they decided to leave them and we were the only vehicle watching.

 

Sometimes one of the cubs got up to find another spot to lie down. Sometimes they yawned. Sometimes they put their head up, watched and listened and went back to lie down. After about 15 minutes the mum got up and watched the area. She stretched, walked to a bush with a good view across the planes and watched what was happening around her. Ivan guessed that she was preparing for hunting. Another five minutes later, the cubs were getting more active. They walked around a little, some played with stones and jumped around larger ones. Then two cubs started to play with each other, jumping on top of each other’s backs. Then also the two others got more active and all four of them played while mum was still checking the area for potential prey. Then mum was very attentive of something in the plains. She ran away and the cubs followed. However she quickly decided that whatever she had spotted was not today’s dinner so the family went up the hill again at another spot. We relocated the vehicle and watched them from a distance – the silhouettes of all five cheetahs visibly against the sky. After a little while, we decided to call it a day and had a quick and late sundowner watching the amazing evening sky and the last bit of the setting sun.

 

While driving back to the lodge, we of course watched out for more animals. And we spotted the bat eared foxes again! It was so much fun to watch them for a while and we even got closer than before. An amazing finish for this amazing game drive. We were absolutely thrilled to have seen the cheetah family.

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Upon arrival at the lodge, Ivan joined us for drinks and after that, we had a very tasty dinner. Three courses again – the starter was really nice green asaparagus followed by some of the best beef fillet that I have ever tasted with amazing mushroom risotto. Once more the kitchen staff surprised us positively. After dinner we were very tired after the sightings of the day so we just packed most of our things as tomorrow would be our last day already...

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Edited by BieneMaja
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Back and forth between cheetah cubs and bat eared fox kits. Ending with the cheetah family in the sunset. Can it get any better than that?

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@@BieneMaja - lovely stuff; the cheetah sequence is amazing - a mass of spots and eyes and legs!

 

kind regards

 

deano

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Beautiful sunset cheetahs!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Today is already the last day at Kwandwe… This morning we decided to search for leopard. They are usually seen quite far away from the lodge, so we opted to go out a little early. The last morning drive started with a sighting of an ostrich couple. On a rocky hill closeby, we saw many baboons. There was a lot of noise and after some signal they all ran off. Next up was a rabbit that is usually quite shy, so we were lucky to come so close to it. It’s also not commonly seen during the day, but it was still early in the morning and it was still feeding.

 

We drove quite a lot that morning to the very north of the property (which is huge!). We sometimes stopped to check areas where the leopards like to be, but the cats were elusive. We saw a kudu, took a photo of a huge spider net and enjoyed the scenery from the hillls, learned a lot about the vegetation and the behaviour of animals. On a hill very far away our eagle eyed spotter saw a lion – that we only saw through the binoculars after explicitly being told the location and even then it was hard to see it. Amazing eyes! Well, as one could expect we didn’t actually see the leopards, but it was still a great game drive as it was exciting and we still saw and learned a lot. Overlooking the valley, we had some morning tea and coffee and yummy homemade muffins before going back towards the lodge. On the way there, we spotted two turtles.

 

Ivan joined us for breakfast which was very good. We had arranged a nature walk with Ivan after breakfast so quickly got changed as it was quite hot already and then left again. As it was Ivan’s first time to walk with customers, we were accompanied by another guide who had worked at Kwandwe for nearly 10 years already. Ivan was a little nervous but did a great job! We drove just a little bit away from the lodge and then left (fully equipped of course) the vehicle to get to know the plants and learn about the footprints in the sand and identify poo. The walk lasted for about an hour and was really interesting.

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Even though guests are supposed to leave after breakfast, we could still do the walk and were offered to take another shower in the lodge and have lunch before leaving – at no extra cost. Really great service. So this is exactly what we did. As the weather was really nice, we could sit outside and chat a little to some other guests before leaving and saying goodbye to all the amazing people there.

 

During the drive to the reception we saw many giraffes and were still awed by them. Our friendly driver even stopped a few times for us to take time to watch the wildlife and take photos, so it was really another short game drive. We saw the baby giraffe again. And then zebra which are not that common at Kwandwe. And then a hear of springbok which I really liked. Then we checked out quickly, were offered another lemonade and water to take with us on the drive and hopped into our small rental car again which was not dusty and more but very clean.

 

We absolutely loved Kwandwe for the lodge itself, the wildlife and last but not least the staff. The service was just amazing and it was really nice to talk to a few people for longer as well. And I can’t praise Ivan highly enough, he made our time there absolutely special and this is also when we learned that the guide is very important to the safari experience. We also enjoyed our time at Amakhosi which was our first “semi-luxury safari experience”, but it was not hard to pick our favorite of the two. Kwandwe was definitely a highlight of the trip.

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On the way to the gate, we saw more springbok and also two elands under a tree. Then we sadly said goodbye to Kwandwe and drove towards Addo Elephant National Park. On the way, we stopped in Grahamstown to buy some food and water for the next days as we would stay in self-catering accommodation in the park. As it was quite late already when we arrived, we decided to do a braai on our patio and watch the buffalo from our balcony before going to bed.

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The next morning, we started early. At the gate opening time, we drove into the park and quickly saw our first group of grazing zebras – picturesquely surrounded by these tall plants. Does anybody know how they are called (the ones that look like huge sticks of grass with little flowers on top)? A little further down the road, we saw our first jackal – but only from behind as he was running away. At a waterhole hide, we waited to a bit until a buffalo came along to drink. Afterwards also a warthog was thirsty.

 

A little further down the road, we saw a warthog family drinking and taking a mud bath. There was so much elephant dung around the waterhole that we thought there must be elephants around often. Next up was a herd of zebras again with a little baby. We watched them for quite a while walking along a hill before they were joined by a warthog family. On the other side of the road, a lone red heartebeest walked past us. Next: more zebras and warthogs at another waterhole. Then we went back to our accommodation to have breakfast and a little rest.

 

After a quick nap, we went out again and saw many turtles next to the road. We continued to drive many kilometers, but all waterholes were deserted and we didn’t see much wildlife at all. After an hour, we then finally saw our first elephant in the park! And guess what: it was at the waterhole with the elephant dung we previously noted. It was drinking and splashing water on itself. After it went back into the bush again, a warthog family with small piglets came to drink. Driving on further, we saw more zebras and watched two really nice turtles. One of them was feeding next to the road. I didn’t know before that they have such a large and thick tongue! It was really nice to watch it having lunch for some time.

 

We decided to drive to the more remote end of the park as we still had lots of time before the gate closing time in the evening. We saw a large herd of kudu including a few juveniles, some warthog and then decided to drive a loop where we came across so many butterflies! There were many different kinds and at some point we stopped to take photos. This was quite a challenge as they moved a lot. And they were sitting on buffalo poo a lot.

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Back on the main road, we finally saw the first group of elephants at a waterhole. At the beginning, there were only six of them including two young ones. But then they were joined by more and many more came and left. Also a warthog mum with her four piglets ran past them. We had such a great time watching them and finally were happy to see some elephants. On the previous evening just before entering the park, we had seen a hear of about 40 elephants from the road and were really impressed, and this was our first elephant herd sighting in the park itself. After quite a while, we drove on.

 

Just a little bit further down the road, we saw a lone elephant bull amidst purple flowers, a really nice view. He was feeding and then crossed the street in front of our car. What a nice animal with extraordinarily shaped ears. On the way back towards our accommodation, we saw again many more warthogs and zebras. We even joked that the more appropriate name would be Addo Zebra National Park as we saw so many zebras.

 

At some point, we heard some cracking noise in the bushes so decided to stop at a spot where there were a few less bushes. This must be elephant noise! And just a little later, we indeed saw a couple of elephants walking past us in the bushes. We only saw three of them, but there must have been many more hiding in the bushes. This was the last sight of the day before we made our way back to the accommodation where we did another tasty braai and had some nice South African wine.

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@@BieneMaja

You did have some lovely elephant sightings and great photos. I love the ones where they are splashing water and mud on themselves. Always a joy to watch!

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@@BieneMaja

 

Great ellies photos! It looks as your photography skills are improving by each day!

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@@BieneMaja - The Kwandwe scenery confirms my belief that the Eastern Cape of SA is one of the most scenic places I have ever seen. I am happy that you enjoyed it and even happier that you have moved on to Addo which is a special place for me. I believe that the plants you ask about in #95 are the Cape squill.

 

Really relaxed elephants in Addo and glad you spent time with them - great photos.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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The next morning, we were up early again and probably the first car within the park. We saw some female kudus feeding in the really nice sunlight, a warthog, a herd of buffalo and two jackals and some zebras within half an hour. What a great morning. On the road, we also saw elephant footprints, so they must have been there during the night. One of the zebras was lying at the road and apparently still a bit sleepy. But this little thing there, the car, seemed to be a bit suspicious, so it decided to get up and join the rest of the group at the waterhole. Next up: more zebras in the hills. On the waterhole with the elephant dung we saw a pair of goose and close by a jackal. It was still shy, but this time we were able to take a few photos. Then again lots of zebras and red heartebeests. Then we came across a bird that posed nicely for us on a tree with blue sky in the background.

 

The next thing we saw was a really large buffalo herd, maybe 100 of them. They all crossed the street in front of our car and walked up a hill on the other side of the road. Then more zebras, among them two lonely ones grazing not far away. We also saw another large brown bird but it was too far away to get a decent photo of. But the female ostrich was quite close to the road. And again, many more zebras and red heartebeests. Then we decided to go back to our accommodation, pack our things and check out before driving through the park to exit on the other side and drive towards Port Elisabeth.

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