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cheaper Kruger Pvt camps umlani, africa on foot,kwa mbili 2016


COSMIC RHINO

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COSMIC RHINO

I began with Luen as my guide , he is a family member with extensive experience in wildlife tourism . He is very knowledgeable and friendly .

 

during my stay Mike who I had last year returned to guiding , he is relatively young but very good.

 

Luen went to work on other things around camp.

 

the game drives are a very good experience as mentioned above the area is not crowded but animals have yet to become used to vehicles

 

once I went out separately in a vehicle with a ranger and the publicity photographer as a way to spread the guests between vehicles .

 

at the time when I was there it was not very easy to find animals as they are on the move looking for better vegetation an water ,something which is not easy to find due to the drought.

 

when animals could be found they were sometimes in heavy bush of one sort or another. There is an extensive area of thick mopane woodland in the district.

 

lions were not easy to find due to the recent change of male pride leaders, some males recently took over in a section Timbavarti, the displaced male came over to Africa on foot. so the new pride male is looking for mating opportunities , and this means killing cubs under 2 yrs old , and as a result the females are trying to hide . After a number of days the females could be found but they were doing little but rest.

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lodges now have mini buses to do airport or other transfers ,without the exception of Kapama reserve which is almost at the airport   the police now take the view that game drive vehicles are not p

Well things are over now , I am in the business centre at the Premier hotel, waiting for the return flight to Sydney , the place where my body lives, but not my heart and soul. Except holidays I ha

GUIDES   There are 2 guides Big Amos (as he calls himself) an older black man , and Andy who is 23 yrs old and recently graduated from Eco training. he is friendly,very knowledgeable and explains

COSMIC RHINO

the best sitings were a brief encounter with a small elephant family in an open area. an extended viewing of a female leopard called Cleo on top of a termite mound, some grey friends and some giraffes

 

it is really good having a camera with a high zoom lens on it , you see things so much closer

 

there is as pack of wild dogs in the area , the den site is inaccessible in heavy bush, sometimes they move away and can be more easily seen

 

once I saw them around a very dry waterhole

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offshorebirder

Here are some more @@COSMIC RHINO photos taken at Africa On Foot, starting with what seems to be an Elephant strolling through camp.

 

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COSMIC RHINO

on the walks I took a thicker juice bottle with a well screwed down top to ensure that nothing leaked out

 

the camp is of the power grid , all cooking is done by wood fires or bottled gas , the fridge works of bottled gas

 

the water comes from bores, it is ok to drink but some people don't like the taste of it , so filtered water is provided at no added cost for those who prefer it

 

I am affected by fatigue, the only explaination a doctor could give was my low vitamin D levels , so I take tablets , and here since it was quiet warm for an hour or so after breakfast I took up one of the lounges around the pool ,dressed in swimmers , getting some extra sun on my skin. The water was too cool for swimming

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COSMIC RHINO

good family style food is provided at a communal table

 

the other guests spoke well of the wine selections

 

the braai is always well received

 

mentioning certain Australian cooking practices they seem not to have spread, from time to time in the news a serious accident is reported from the wood or charcoal barbeque. The cook was not pleased by the state of the flames , so they tip metho or turps directly from the bottle onto the remains of the flames , which stimulates a whole lot of action, including a urgent severe burns admission to hospital.

 

the other guests were pleasant and friendly, they were mainly from the USA and some from spain

 

well some of them were less than impressed by the transfer firm selected by their agent. Their agent had convinced them to fly down, then take to shuttle back to Johannesburg . A transfer group had been booked to take them to the bush pub to connect with the Ashtons bus leaving around 1100 , well the transfer group arrived at 330 PM and they were seriously unimpressed. They had ongoing travels, flying to Vic Falls the next morning. The staff at Africa on foot arranged that the transfer group was taking them all the way to Johannesburg at no added cost

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On one evening there was a trip out from camp to look for a nearby leopard heard very briefly by the ranger , unfortunately this one could not be found

 

well what is all this stuff about those selfie photos , nothing other than a phone ,tablet or very small camera is suitable . a ranger told me that one of his guest was trying to take one with an SLR fitted with a Canon 70-200 mm pro grade lens. Well that is rather heavy and difficult to compose. So much better to ask someone else to take the photo.

 

the idea of walking safaris has good appeal and not everyone is seeking luxury accommodation , a farther and son had previously stayed at Tswalu and Londolozi , they said that they really enjoyed Africa on foot

 

being interested in going to see Andulicia I asked the Spanish visitors how well I would get on as an independent traveler who did not understand the local language , well not well at all in that region , and especially so in Granada.

 

the other guests were a mix of first time visitors to Africa and people coming back, but no one else who had been to the camp before.

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COSMIC RHINO

it is always sad coming to the end of my stay at a camp, but at least I was going on to a new place

 

I was given an estimate of when my transfer would arrive and had been told that with Sun Safaris it is very reliable .

 

well the vehicle arrived 45 minutes early , I went back to my room to recheck that nothing had been left behind , and it was time to go to Thornybush with a friendly and pleasant driver

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COSMIC RHINO

there is a battery powered safe in the rooms

 

whatever you do know where your passport is always

 

some other visitors mislaid theirs for a while

 

KWA MBILI LODGE, THORNYBUSH RESERVE

 

There is a security camera on the outside of the entrance gate and also on the inside of the gate just as you enter , security calls your lodge before they let you pass

 

Thorybush is a closed reserve next to greater Kruger national park , but unfortunately the fences are about to come down at the barrier with Timbavati , so it will be joined up to greater Kruger in a matter of 3 months

 

given the situation with rhino poaching I find this very questionable

kruger is taking a wider viewpoint of a greater selection of animals , wanting to restore historic movement patterns for zebras amongst others

 

within Thornybush I have stayed before at Tangala lodge in 2012,2013 and 2014, they closed in 2015, I booked into Kwa Mbili and in the mean time Tangala has reopened under the longterm owners who operated it before 2012.

 

Thornybush reserve has 15 lodges, the only ones which approach affordable are Tangala and Kwa Mbili

 

the other 13 jointly promote themselves at the Thornybush Collection and are very expensive high level luxury lodges . The most elaborate is Royal Malewana which has Elton John as a regular visitor

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COSMIC RHINO

Given this the owners at Kwa Mbili have gone for an approach that people will think of them well both as a bush experience and as a lodge when compared to the Thornybush Experience.

 

the level of comfort and style is well and truly above what you would expect for a camp at this price level.

 

The lounge has antique furniture , the cutlery is sterling silver not stainless steel, there are a number of sterling silver serving trays , the serving table is an antique sideboard.

 

the lodge includes both safari tents and cabins. I stayed in a tent , so that is what my comments are on.

 

TENTS

 

within the tents the vanity unit is a antique marble topped desk , an old travelling chest is used as a table for an electric jug with tea bags and instant coffee, Queen Anne fine English bone china cups and saucers , a cut crystal container with sherry and 2 tumblers

 

there are 2 antique armchairs

 

there are 2 metal enamel four posted beds pushed together to give it an older style look

 

each bed has a bedside table

 

there is a wardrobe

 

powerpoints are available for battery charging

 

there are 3 lamps to make it well lit at night , 2 of them are made to look like old kero lanterns

 

there is a large fan to be used for when it is hot

 

a hair dryer is provided

 

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COSMIC RHINO

The shower is open to the sky but screened for privacy by wooden walls

 

a laundry service is available but you can also do your own if you have brought soap and coat hangers ,which I placed in a nearby tree branch

 

they are meru tents on a wooden platform with a small terrace, folding table and 2 chairs .

 

CAMP GENERAL CONDITIONS

 

The camp is unfenced , guests are escorted around after dark

 

in practice wharthogs,impala and nyala visit the camp

 

some of the wharthogs are regulars and have names

 

there is a free roaming nyala is called Bob , the camp manager regards him as a mascot . on one occasion he walked into the office but did not cause a problem.

 

there are loose peeble paths between the tents,cabins, the bar ,lapa, lounge and the hide

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COSMIC RHINO

there are a number of electric lamps along the pathways operated by motion sensors .

 

dinner is at either the hide or boma

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COSMIC RHINO

the tents are have the usual supplementary thatch roofs

 

the cabins are rather more modern brick and glass construction

 

the rooms and tents have an information folder giving meal and game drive times

 

there is a small swimming pool with surrounding garden and sun lounges.,the swimming pool is fenced to keep smaller animals away as the water could be a hazard to them ,the surrounding area is covered by grass . a lawn mower is only used when the grass gets thick in the summer. otherwise wharthogs keep it short by grazing on it.

 

just keep relaxed they are friendly but not to be approached

 

what can a swimming pool net be used for ?

 

removing leaves and wharthogs who over balanced when approaching the pool to drink, just another interesting task for the ranger to do .

 

good quality family style food is served in generous portion sizes

 

all the places I have visited are good at keeping to my food requirements ,except Elephant Plains and its overblown food emphasis ,perhaps the chefs and their over blown sense of importance don't want guests to cramp their style.

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COSMIC RHINO

the hide is in front of a small pumped waterhole which usually draws wharthogs and impalas most often , sometimes giraffe and buffalos

 

well I commented to the ranger about an event and the comment was that impalas can get excited over not that much. A male impala looked at me clearly in the eye , drank then barked out a predator alarm warning call, for 2 days there was almost no activity at the waterhole.

 

there is a dam viewable some considerable distance from the hide , when I was there a small residual area of nearly dry mud wallow could be seen. I was told that the dam lasted for only a brief period after good rains.

 

the hand is on a large wooden platform with a roof . it has tables ,chairs, a chess set and frame animal ,bird and reptile posters of greater kruger on the walls

 

the game drive start time does not mean a whole lot to Edward the head ranger who I had ,he loves the bush and that is where he wants to be .

 

on my first day he came to the hide where he guessed I would be and we went out 30 minutes ahead of the advertised time.

 

 

on subsequent days I listened for the vehicle, went to the parking lot then out on the game drive

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like the rest of Greater Kruger the reserve is affected by a severe drought

 

  • however, surprisingly the main dams have good levels of water in them, I was told that they were not pumped artificially
  • the savage thorns along the tracks have largely been eaten up , I did not have to bring out my gardening gloves for protection from them
  • the animals are widely spread looking for the best plants, this noticeably applies to the elephants
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COSMIC RHINO

both the ranger and the tracker are excellent top class professionals

 

Edward the ranger was taken to Kruger national park for holidays and on most weekends from when he was a teenager

 

from this he observed animals closely and developed a great love of the bush

 

after school he worked for a number of years as a successful electrician , he was well paid , but his heart was in the bush and he really wanted to be a ranger . He phoned up Eco training and asked what were entry requirements. he completed his training , was sent to kwa mabili as a job placement and has stayed there ever since.

 

His previous job with the associated skills for building maintenance made him appealing for the lodge

 

over the course of my stay I could see that Edward is great at finding animals , has great bush eyes being able to spot things from as long distance away , is very good at explaining things both in the initial information he gives and in the way he answers questions. He is a safe and careful driver .

 

that is what I wrote in the guest book.

 

Edde the tracker is also great , he used to clean bank branches , but got out due to safety concerns of avoiding being around when armed robbers might come .

 

he retrained as a tracker and has worked at various lodges around the greater Kruger area.

 

he is great at observing thing ,following tracks and finding animals .

 

Edward and Edde work together very well as a team.

 

from time to time the manager joins the game drive so he knows what it is like and to access the ranger and tracker.

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COSMIC RHINO

since it is something that people are interested in I can say that there is wi fi available in the camp , I am not sure if it is free

 

people were doing things with their smart phones including on the game drives

 

at times I was told that it was not easy to check the news , otherwise someone else made a Skype call to Switzerland

 

the main activity is game drives , there is one open land rover

 

bush walks can be done in the morning at the end of the drive or after breakfast

 

child minding by camp staff can be arranged , it would probably be best to ask about it in advance if you are interested

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COSMIC RHINO

  • the elephants are noticeably spread out due to the drought , they are in smaller groups looking for better quality vegetation

there are a considerable number of lions split into a north and a south pride

there is only one male in the prides

the reserve sold another mature male for financial gain, one died from injuries inflicted by a buffalo during a hunt , and another died from old age

when the fence comes down with Timbavati this is likely to change, two mature nomadic male lions are on the prowl

there are 18 leopards in Thornybush reserve seen from time to time

as a result of the high numbers of lions and leopards , there are not a whole lot of other predators seen. This is especially the case with hyneas

theee are a number of darker colored giraffes seen in the reserve due to genetic factors

there are a considerable number of zebras and some wilderbeest seen

an albino wilderbeest calf was born in the reserve. it was viewed by the rest of the heard as a major risk for the attracting predators . the calf was pushed out of the group, everyone else ran away. the albion calf quickly fell victim to predators

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COSMIC RHINO

from the effect of the drought the buffalos are in a noticeably poor condition, as a result they are easier prey for lions

 

a kill which is a few days old in the heat and dust really smells awefull , it almost makes me sick

 

during my stat I saw leopards twice ,once in good light close up, another time when it was getting dark and my camera was focusing on the branch in front of the cats

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COSMIC RHINO

the game drives have target times only , if good wildlife sitings can be found the drive will go a bit over the set time

 

in the reserve sitings are limited to 2 vehicles at a time and coordinated by radios on earpieces

 

the reserve is not crowded as the vehicles are well spread out

 

There is no noticeable difference in the look of the land in the south of the reserve where Tangala lodge is, and the north of the reserve where all the other lodges are .

 

unless you have an expansive budget the choice is between Tangala and Kwa Mabili , all the other lodges are high level luxury , market themselves as the Thornybush Collection and are very expensive $$$$$$$$

 

Tangala closed for part of 2015 and 2016 ,but has reopened . They now have solar electric lights in the rooms. The rooms are a mix of cabins and tents . The waterhole is reasonably large and has a wonderful view of one of the Drakensburg mountains . Tangala also is unfenced .

 

both are small camps

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COSMIC RHINO

this year at the start I was the sole guest for a while

 

then a Swiss couple of the French community with their 2 children aged in their 20's came .

 

it was their first time in Africa, some friends had recommended the camp

 

when they came to the hide I told them that it would be best to see animals by not moving around too much and not talking loudly ,so they kept still and started whispering to each other

 

they were not noisy around camp or on game drive

 

if they were not speaking in English together, the mother gave me a summary translation

 

they enjoyed both the camp and the wildlife

 

when they left a German couple with a 8 year old sons came, the couple were friendly, quiet and spoke good English

 

at times when we were looking for animals their son quietly amused himself with a smart phone chess game

 

later when I was on my final day some other guests who were noisy on game drive came , so I left at about the right time

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COSMIC RHINO

when dinner was served in the hide a civet cat and a porcupine were seen.

 

on my final night an large male elephant came and sampled in water in the swimming pool, not finding it to his liking he later came to drink from the waterhole near the hide

 

 

the other guests spoke well of the wine selection

 

WINDY AND OVERCAST CONDITIONS

 

  • when it is overcast animals don't move around that much as it is harder to hide from predators
  • when it is windy it is harder to find animals as the wind blows scent all over the place
  • in windy conditions animals tend to hide in thickets
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COSMIC RHINO

the same elephant visited another lodge on the same night

 

 

on occasions there are selected impalas and the regular lodge wharthogs around the tents

 

there are a few hippos in the dams around the reserve, but they are not that many of them and they mainly rest when vehicles are there

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COSMIC RHINO

some visitors are concerned about the risk of snakes , I could hear the chatter but I know what the real risk is very low. So I asked the ranger about black mambas , and the Swiss family were reassured that they were not likely to be seen and were not aggressive .

 

this is the snake that gets all the questions , although if you look at the posters spitting cobras and a few others are rated equally as dangerous.

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COSMIC RHINO

ON SHAVING

 

well I can imagine that someone will find this amusing , and be thing why don't you grow a bread

 

well my passport photo is clean shaven

 

when shaving one morning the mechanism at the top which holds the blade in place sprung open and was unable to function

 

it came out of the handle

 

I managed to reassemble it with craft glue and electric insolating tape

 

it worked again but only for about 2 days

 

it was several years old and I did not expect this to happen

 

fortunately I had a spare which I could use from the toiletries bag I take to Lewa

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