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Three reserves in South Africa - December 2016


deano
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Hello Safaritalkers and guests and welcome to this my third trip report and second for 2016.

 

We were teased into a year end trip by our tour guide friend based in SA when the Rand coughed up a very favourable exchange rate which coincided with a great special that we had seen offered by Seasons in Africa at three of their lodges. This trip would be a slight departure from our current preferred type of safari where we visit remote bush camps with the focus on walking. With 3 nights at Madikwe, 4 nights Timbavati and then 3 nights Sabi Sands and all sticking primarily to the more regular routine of 2 game drives per day we weren't sure if we would be able to enjoy the bush as much as we do when on foot.

 

But enjoy it we did plus we were able to squeeze in some walks at each reserve to get our fix of dirt on our boots (and dung in the soles).

 

We flew the normal route - Cayman - Atlanta - Johannesburg - and arrived late afternoon and made the short walk to the Intercontinental Hotel which is literally right outside the airport door. It is always nice to shower off and head downstairs to Quills Restaurant as this signals our first African experience for the trip. Food was great and washed down by a large Irish Whiskey that begins with a J; I forget the name!

 

Next morning and our first reserve would be Madikwe which required a short flight with FedAir and after a hearty breakfast (one of the best breakfast buffets of any hotel we've stayed at) it was off to the FedAir office just behind the hotel. A mini bus then delivered us to their "terminal" at the other end of the airport and we were invited to sit in the outdoor departure lounge and sip on coffee and eat cake while we waited.

 

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An extremely scenic 50 minute flight later we landed at Madikwe where we had a short drive to the lodge at Madikwe Hills.

 

More to follow.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

 

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Day 1 Madikwe Hills:

 

We were greeted at the Madikwe East airstrip by Kenneth our guide for the next 3 nights. We informed Kenneth of the animals we had seen from the air and how good it was to be back in Africa. We had a 10 minute drive to Madikwe Hills and if we were not sure that we were back in the place we love then a small breeding herd of elephants crossed in front of the vehicle o remind us that we most definitely were; blue sky, red earth and elephants. Is there anything more African that that?

 

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Madikwe Hills is quite the lodge. Set on a rocky hillside with 8 rooms dotted about the place we were greeted warmly and shown the layout of the place and given a nice cold drink. It was very very hot here and the place looked parched. As Mrs Deano was enjoying her first glass of wine I was scanning for activity at one of the water holes in front of the main lodge and it wasn't long before a large kudu came to stick his tongue in the water followed by another herd of elephants who came down for a drink and a splash.

 

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We finished our drinks and headed off up the many stepped pathways to our room and we were glad that we had a room that was up high and a bit of a walk as we both enjoy exercise. Plus the terrain gave us a change to look out for critters and birds.

 

The room was amazing. It seemed to go on for ever and had a continuous porch with views over the landscape to a distant dam and then an elevated view down onto one of the smaller water holes in front of the main lodge. I would spend some happy times there over the next 3 days and nights as I did on that first afternoon watching this little chap.

 

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We returned for lunch and then explored the lodge a bit more and soon after it was time for our first game drive. Afternoon tea was the usual array of drinks and cakes and Madikwe Hills was definitely up there with the best of them. It was extremely hot though and they had installed a misting system on the deck which was brilliant and very welcome. We met our fellow guests for the drive - a German couple and an English/South African couple who lived in Australia.

 

Kenneth introduced us to Max who would be our tracker and were happy to have our favourite back seats for the drive and we headed out to see what Madikwe had in store for us today. Kenneth took us to an area where lions and taken down two giraffes a day or so earlier and while I never know what to expect on our first drive it is safe to say that a dead giraffe would not be my first thought. We caught a smell of the carcass and looked for the lions. We could see another vehicle peeking at something and when we got closer it was not a lion but a jackal. Totally unexpected with that much meat left on the carcass but very welcome and I was soon snapping away.

 

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We watched the jackal feeding sort of nervously but the lions must have eaten enough of the meat and were probably laid up in the hot afternoon. He did jump a few times when birds started alarm calling but he was not bothered at all and eventually stopped for a pee and then trotted off into the sunset.

 

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For photographs this trip I had my trusty Nikon D750 and 80-400mm zoom and GoPro. In addition, I had rented a 70-200mm zoom through A Lens For Hire in Joburg and can highly recommend them. Gary (the Nikon side of the company) was great to deal with and they delivered the lens to my hotel in Joburg. I will definitely use them again and the lens was a great addition to this vehicle based safari.

 

Kenneth then suspected that the lions, if still here, would wander to a nearby waterhole for a drink and we set off to have a look. Before long the birds started alarming and then the ever present impalas all looked in the same direction before letting out that tell tale bark of theirs. Something was coming.

 

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And that something turned out to be a large lioness. She swaggered onto the scene and proceeded to drink for a good 5 minutes without stopping. I think the first 50 pictures I took all had her head down drinking. Mrs deano contributed with her iPhone and I swapped over to the GoPro a few times as well.

 

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Soon the sounds of the bush told us something else was coming and we were treated to an appearance by her son, a fantastic looking 3 year old male who had not yet left the pride.

 

He too drank for a long time and we spent a good half hour there observing their interactions.

 

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We needed to move on now to let others have a chance to watch and enjoy so we moved out and after some time came across some wonderful General Game

 

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Kenneth then asked if we wanted to take a drive to spot some hippos. It was the last evening drive for our English/SA couple and they had requested it so of course we were happy to go along. We drove to an exit gate and stopped on a bridge over a nearby river and scanned the surface of the water in the failing light. No hippos but it was a nice spot for a sundowner and we had a nice elephant sighting on the way.

 

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There were a few spots of rain as we got back int the vehicle and we got caught in an epic storm on the way back to camp. Our first experience of ponchos and after packing away my camera I was happy to sit there with the GoPro and try and capture the scene as we drove back and the lightning show was really quite spectacular.

 

The bush had delivered some amazing sightings on our first game drive and we felt it was only fair that it was rewarded with some rain for its efforts.

 

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I have edited together some GoPro and iPhone footage from each day.

 

 

Day 2 to follow.

 

Oh and by the way.....have I mentioned that I love Africa!

 

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Welcome back Deano, looking forward to this.

I started my report quite a few days ago and have not got far at all yet (photo download issue's).

The black and white photo of the lions is fantastic.

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@@deano Looks like a great start to your new South African safari. Thanks for the recommendation for the lens rental company,

 

Matt

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The properly converted b&w never ceased to amaze me, and your is one of those! Great pp skill, @@deano .

The male lion's "iroqueze" is very special, never seen on just like that.

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Day 2 Madikwe Hills:

 

They start early at Madikwe - 4.30AM alarm and after my lion size kudu fillet for dinner I slept soundly but awoke refreshed and ready for our first morning game drive. It was overcast but dry as we headed down to the main lodge and even though there was nothing around I snapped the obligatory shot of the view. A very peaceful spot with that constant air of expectation that comes with water holes in front of lodges.

 

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Our SA/English couple had mentioned the prospect of a walk instead of a game drive and our German friends had decided to skip the morning so there was never any doubt that we would pick a walk over a drive if asked. Kenneth drove us to one of the most extraordinary places we have ever been. Old human settlements (like tens of thousands of years) mored modern humans (Anglo/Boer War and Ivory Trade Route) not to mention prime stomping ground for black rhino and a cave complex that was clearly home to bats, baboons and a surprise barn owl that nearly knocked me over as it flew past my head.

 

We walked for a while, stopping to look at the usual tracks, dung, plants, spiders and such and eventually made our way to the top of the hill where the caves went vertical. Both Kenneth and Max were particularly on edge near the cave as this was the spot where "...we release all of the black mambas that we catch in the camps...". The view from the top was spectacular and we thoroughly enjoyed the trek today. Very informative and a bit different. We saw lots of evidence of black rhino on the way up and down (tracks of two different animals, dung with that tell tale 45 degree snipped off twigs in there as well as freshly nibbled on bush) but never the animals themselves although the hot chocolate and Amarula still went down very well this morning.

 

The view from the top looking back to the vehicle somewhere in the distance.

 

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Back at base we had a hearty breakfast which was fantastic on its own but made even more so by the visit of a herd of elephants and their short stand off with a lone male buffalo at the water hole.I lingered after breakfast and found it tough to leave but I needed to rest a bit and Mrs deano had a trip to the spa to "...scrape the baboon sh#t from under her fingernails..." (her words). The spa lady was very understanding apparently.

 

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More exercise for me today as I walked the lodge a few times and took in as many steps as possible and then parked myself on the vast viewing patio and took in the many different views.

 

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I spent a pleasant afternoon with camera and binoculars scanning the bush and as should be expected it was the view toward the waterholes that was most productive. I was sure I had seen a large tawny shape and sure enough there was a lion. I actually thought I saw 2 or 3 but could only see the one young male when I set up my tripod.

 

He plonked himself down with a view of the waterhole and a after a brief bit of excitement when he fancied his own kudu fillet or maybe impala tartar he just rested up in the heat of the day.

 

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After a short nap and a shower (with an amazing view) it was time for the afternoon game drive. We made our way down and I informed Kenneth of the lion sighting but we could not see them from the main deck where we were having afternoon tea now so maybe they would be close by and we would find them on drive. We set off in the hot afternoon - grateful for the shade afforded by the roof on the vehicle - and not 30 seconds later Max spots lions. There were in fact 3 of them and they had moved to the shade right in front of Little Madikwe which is a two building complex attached to the main camp but one that can be rented out separately. we couldn't see them from the main lodge because LM is sort of tucked away out of sight to keep it private. What a sighting you would had from the LM deck today.

 

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From Mrs.deano's iphone...the resolution always suffers a bit on "zoom" but I think the colors and the light give this one a slight "watercolors" effect that I like.

 

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Still within sight of the lodge, Kenneth spots an animal that we have wanted to view for a while but had only seen glimpses of in the past - a brown hyena. It was great to finally get some good viewing time as he moved about and while he didn't exactly make photography easy I am happy to have just seen him with that distinctive long fur coat. Beautiful.

 

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Kenneth was clearly very excited and told us how elusive they are and that we should count ourselves lucky. We definitely did and with only half an hour gone we wondered what else was in store on this gorgeous afternoon given that we had indeed just had a lucky sighting.

 

We knew that Madikwe had a wild dog pack and when news came in over the game drive radio that they had been found but that there was a long line up (we were 2nd standby!) we were excited and sort of nervous that we wouldn't get to see them. Kenneth told us that he thought we should wait and let others that were closer take a turn and take a chance on them later when they might get active. So, wait up we did and even then we drove there very slowly but arrived literally just as they got active. In fact, we timed it so close that I had to use my iPhone as my camera was still in my lap when we got there. I did manage to capture the audio from their greeting ceremony though before they moved off. We followed them as they moved over some open ground and then on the hunt into bush. It was extremely exciting as we lost sight of them and then stopped and switched off with everyone on the vehicle watching and listening and then that tell tale white flash of dog tail. We spent a lot of time with them as they hunted but eventually lost sight of them in the half light.

 

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We left the area and stopped for a sundowner and enjoyed our drinks and conversation to the sound of a nearby spotted hyena before heading back to the lodge for a fantastic treat - a boma bbq under the stars. Some lovely singing and fantastic food under an African sky. I walked a few more steps though...just to keep the waist line in check.

 

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GoPro/iphone video of the day.

 

 

More to follow.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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@@Hads - thanks for the welcome back (I really missed it you know but work was too much for a while); I thought I saw the start of your report and remember you mentioning how dry it was. Unbelievable how brown the area around Satara was when we flew in but we saw some good rain while we were in SA. Be very interesting to compare "greenery" between our respective trips. Hope to see yours soon and see comments below about the B&W lion image.

 

@@Game Warden - you Sir are most welcome. There is a lot to be said for just renting the entire package and having it delivered rather than lugging a lot of heavy stuff half way across the world. But boys do like their toys (especially this boy).

 

@@xelas - lions in black and white was either a) a carefully planned shot using all the latest gadgets and settings on an expensive DSLR followed by hours of post processing with a few add on applications thrown in for good measure or B) my wife's iPhone 6 and Apple Mac's "Photo" with an automatic conversion to B&W followed by sliding 4 bars left or right to suit my taste all told for about 15 seconds of my time? (it was 'b' !) Glad you liked it though...I actually think it came out quite nice and I only went B&W as her iPhone seems to prioduce very warm images in terms of white balance and I have trouble correcting them (you can see it in some of the video footage).

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@@elefromoz - exciting indeed and I would have been happy if that was our best day of the trip but as a teaser for the rest of this trip report we had even better to come! Please stay tuned for more.....

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Day 3 Madikwe Hills:

 

We had new vehicle mates yesterday - another German couple - and as it turned out they were on a similar trip to us and we spent a lot of time with them over the next week. They were great company and we got on well with frequent conversations about life, work, football, Brexit and Donald Trump. I bet those topics come up a lot in the future as well. We headed out to a hyena den today and as we drove up we saw a black ball of fur scamper down one of the holes and then......nothing. Kenneth asked if we wanted to wait to see what happened so wait we did. After 25 minutes of bird sounds and a few false alarms we decided to move on. As we drove away an adult popped out of the bush and proceeded to check the area before calling the youngsters who then entertained us for what seemed like most of the morning.

 

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Hyena overload but that is our best ever sighting of spotted hyenas and they kept us entertained and became more inquisitive the longer we stayed. However, we couldn't stay all day so we headed of for the now customary hot chocolate and Amarula and with a splendid view this one went down very well. Up high at the base of a radio tower we had a great view of Madikwe.

 

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We could see a lone wildebeest from the top and he posed nicely on the way back to camp.

 

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A slow drive back to camp with plenty of stops to talk about trees, birds, plants, old trade routes (Madikwe is on the Ivory Route) and all sorts of stuff about early human remains found in the area and a museum that Kenneth was hoping to set up and then just before the lodge a big bull giraffe who was practically in the vehicle at one point and not the least bit interested in us followed by a very well hidden kudu just alongside the driveway.

 

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Back to base for breakfast and we were joined by a mantis who decided our table was a nice spot for a bit of preening.

 

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And then our giraffe friend wandered into view. I watched him all morning but he never got down to the water hole so this long distance pic is the best that I got from the deck.

 

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After breakfast I wandered through the lodge grounds and checked out the many birds - none of which I could identify. That is until I got back to the room and found this chap in the pool. He was very hot as he popped up into the shade of a tree and did what I think I discovered is known as gular fluttering?

 

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We skipped lunch and both had a nap before meeting up for afternoon tea. Always something savoury as well as sweet and I stuffed my face as it was only fair to sample everything on offer and I really don't like to see food go to waste. And I really like cake as a food group.

 

Kenneth then got us rounded up and headed out West today to try and find cheetahs. I never really have a definite wish list but I have to say that it has been some years since we have seen them since recently we have been to Zambia and sadly they just don't have them there anymore. So, cheetahs we were after and we headed off West.

 

Somewhere (I am being deliberately vague) we saw what turned out to be a sad sight. I take my hat off to Thomas, our German vehicle mate, who saw a WR through the bush as we were all looking at wildebeest in the other direction and initially we were all happy to see something so magnificent. At first none of us could see anything out of the ordinary until Kenneth noticed that the female WR gave out a grunt that for a WR he knew well was completely out of character. Maybe she had been injured by a bull during mating? Maybe she was in need of a good feed? Sadly, nothing so 'natural'. She had a small calibre gunshot wound to the side of her beautiful face and after we spent some time with her we (Kenneth and Max) figured out that the wound was a few days old as indicated by the dried blood that had marked her face and found its way to her mouth. She did not look well and it was obvious who/what was to blame and I need not tell you all what would likely follow for the unfortunate animal had we, Thomas, not seen her. I swear that animal was looking at us as if to say "please help me".

 

Kenneth called the on duty vet, gave a location and description (her ear notch) and through cell phone pictures taken of my images of the wound from the back of my camera, we were able to get help on the way. We were all very sad and I have decided to post only a couple of pics and tried to leave out the wound on the side of her face. She was still magnificent and beautiful and I want to show her looking as good as possible. As a follow up, we were told that the vets got to her quickly and removed the round and she was taken to a boma where she was doing okay but needed to eat. We are waiting for follow up from Kenneth and keep our fingers crossed.

 

Hats off to Kenneth for the way he handled that situation - he went 'roaming' with his cell phone and sent/received a lot of data all at his own cost - all for that animal. I also know that when he didn't join us for dinner that night, he went back to help the "search". He wanted to know that we were all okay with staying - which of course we were. We would have stayed there all night if asked but we were taken off to complete our game drive.

 

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Nature was telling us that all was okay as our next sighting was 2 WR. In good health.

 

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And of course some impalas. Here is a youngster with legs that look way too long for it just yet.

 

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After some more driving we came to a water hole and witnessed the curious sight of a brown hyena being chased by two black backed jackals. It was actually quite comical and after the jackals succeeded they returned for a drink. We were guessing that they had either a kill in the area or maybe even cubs. If it was a kill then perhaps the cheetahs were in the area?

 

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We searched the area from the safety of the vehicle and many times caught a smell of something rotten. Additionally, lots of crows in the area including this pied fellow.

 

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Something was going on and we drove on in search of the cats. Before long we saw large herd of buffalo. They were in good condition and posed for us in the last of the afternoon light.

 

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We learned that Madikwe buffs are highly sought after due to their impressive genes and large horn spreads. Who knew.

 

We could not find the cheetahs so we headed back to the waterhole for a sundowner. We were joined by the brown hyena who was back for round 2 with the jackals so maybe there was food in the vicinity but after a short search on foot all we found of the cheetahs was a few tracks and a day old kill. At least we were looking in the right area. On the drive out we saw 2 more brown hyenas and Kenneth made a note to come back on his days off and explore the area. Maybe we would come back tomorrow?

 

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GoPro/iphone video for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

More to follow including our transfer by air to Timbavati.

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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Great story and pictures! I also like the B&W one very much ( especially now I know how much time and effort you spent on it;)). Sad incident with the Rhino and I join you in hoping it will recover fully. I don't know if I can keep follwing your report, since I'm heading ( back) to SA tomorrow and wifi access may be limited, but I'll catch up on my return.

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This just made my day: the return of @@deano's epic video's! I'm so excited, watching them all at once, but will have a better look from home tonight :)

 

Madikwe looks like a great reserve! It surely seemed to deliver for you, wonderful sightings!

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@@PeterHG - many thanks for your comments and following along. I am still trying to find out more about the rhino and will update as soon as I know. Hope you enjoy SA )of course you will).

 

@@martywilddog - and you just made mine...describing my humble videos as epic! Thanks for that. Madikwe was brilliant and much more than we had hoped for and we will definitely return. Apart from the fact that it is a great place it is very close to JoBurg so we are considering adding it on to a return trip to Zambia next year. There are of course many other places in Africa that we want to try but it takes us such a long tome to get there from where we live that there is a lot to be said for taking the easy option and just staying in SA. We get to spend less time flying and more time on safari and we can probably do it a bit cheaper as well. Working on the next installment now.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Day 4 Madikwe Hills to Kings Camp Timbavati:

 

We all dined separately last night - just the way the tables were set up and I can't say that I am bothered either way. I like company but then agin I sometimes like my own company as well. We has ostrich fillet which was cooked by Kenneth's girlfriend who was chef tonight and we had been told that her family ran an ostrich farm so we left the temperature entirely up to her and it was absolutely fantastic. Ten out of ten I wrote in my notes and I rarely if ever give anything top marks.

 

The other thing that happened last night was that Mrs deano - who is forever nagging at me to "...put that lens cap away or you'll lose it...don't forget your tripod/GoPro/hat/head..." realized halfway through the drive back to camp that she had lost her iPhone. I had made a note that immediately after she had searched the seat for the 96th time (we were on the back...with an open seat back so I knew straight away that it had fallen out onto the road) that a WR crossed the road in front of us and that Kenneth/Max would remember where that was so they could look the next day using that as a starting point.

 

So, sure enough, our plan today was operation iPhone. To be fair to our vehicle mates, Kenneth told us we were going back out that way anyway to hunt for cheetahs. No sooner had we got to the spot where the WR had crossed last night and Max saw the unmistakeable black iPhone in the middle of the road. A happy Mrs deano (and Mr. deano for that matter) and no nude selfies from any of the animals!

 

We drove on until we got to the waterhole from last night and low and behold there was a jackal pup. He was a bit skittish but he settled to drink and I took a long range pic. Looks like we had the reason for the jackal parents chasing the brown hyena last night.

 

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We drove off in search of cheetah again but had no luck and didn't find as much as a track but it didn't matter as we were enjoying the change in scenery given that we were practically on the border with Botswana. Very open and we saw lots of zebra and wildebeest on these "plains" of black cotton soil that had just started drying out after heavy rain a week or so ago. Looks like we were the first vehicle to venture back and I don't think we saw anyone else that morning.

 

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After a brief spell following tracks of a male lion we decided that we were happy enough with our relatively quiet drive and that it was time for a drink stop. Kenneth took us to a spot at the bottom of a rocky hill and once I was told that rock climbing was permitted I opted for a short walk to get a view. We knew that elephants were close by and I was acting as spotter while the hot chocolate and Amarula was being prepared down below.

 

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The elephants moved off and I headed back down to grab my drink and chat with our vehicle mates. Just as I got to the vehicle we all see a herd of elephants walking up the track towards us. They had come out of nowhere but then again they are elephants and can appear like that. They actually got quite close and had a good sniff before moving off into the bush to go about their day. It was a really nice way to end our last drink stop in Madikwe.

 

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to turn the Amarula bottle toward the camera and try an capture the elephant on the bottle with the real deal in the background!

 

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Back to the lodge for one last breakfast before our drive to the airstrip for the flight to JoBurg and then Timbavati. All very leisurely with no rush at all which left time for a few final pics before we departed.

 

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The birds at Madikwe Hills were out in full force today and a birder would have had a ball.

 

I was also happy that my kudu friend returned to say goodbye.

 

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As well as one of the resident dogs. Very affectionate.

 

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Kenneth had other duties this morning so another guide took us to the airstrip and sat with us until we took off. Always a nice touch that. My last pic was off an impala. Easy to ignore but I miss them whenever I am not in Africa.

 

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Part 2 to follow.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

 

 

 

 

Edited by deano
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Day 4 Madikwe Hills to Kings Camp Timbavati:

 

Part 2.

 

It was a pleasant 50 minute flight back to JoBurg and the FedAir facility. A very nice way to travel and we enjoyed a nice cuppa in their lounge and a few bits of cake and some sweets and I think a cookie or two.

 

I was a bit surprised to learn that the flight to Kings Camp was 1hr 50 mins - not sure what I was expecting but I was quickly adding up travel times and realizing that we might be late for the afternoon game drive but I need not have worried. We took off slightly late lost a bit more time as we skirted an epic thunderstorm and then headed to Timbavati. I saw that we were starting to descend and glanced out of the window and saw a vast brown landscape parched by the sun and definitely suffering from a drought. I then noticed a rectangular obviously man made water hole and thought that it looked a lot like Satara - home of a webcam that I used to watch through Africam. I had to laugh when we landed and the pilot announced "welcome to Satara" - you know you are and Africa addict when you recognize somewhere you have never been before from their webcam image!

 

Most passengers got off here and we were the only ones left for the Timbavati portion and we landed 5 mins later at Thanda Thula which is not far from Kings Camp.Our guide and tracker - Grant and Jules were on other duties so we were collected by Remember (I bet he has heard every joke about that!!) and driven the short distance to Kings Camp - our home for the next 4 nights. We had missed lunch but after the briefest of orientations (don't walk alone at night and never go beyond the pool towards the waterhole in front of camp) and a lovely small basket of fruit and sandwiches they had thoughtfully left in the room, we met for afternoon tea.

 

Our vehicle mates were a newly wed couple from Guatemala who were safari novices. A really lovely couple and we got on with them immediately and with our German friends Thomas and Karina arriving tomorrow from Madikwe we knew that we would have a great group.

 

We were soon out and Grant took us to a water hole - it was hot here as well and no roof for shade - where we found some buffalo bulls. They were clearly struggling from the drought although they had had some rain in the areas and more was forecast but it couldn't come soon enough for these guys. They looked very thin.

 

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Apart from the sickly buffalo It was good to experience a slightly different landscape and after stopping to talk about impalas and wildebeest and kudu and dropping off Jules to go and investigate some tracks (the new folks were amazed when Jules wandered off into the bush armed with a two way radio!) we had our first Kings Camp sundowner. It was a bit cloudy so our view of the sunset was obscured but I didn't care. I was in Africa and drinking Jamesons which is fantastic with or without a view.

 

After chatting (and drinking) for 30-40 minutes we packed up and Grant then took us on a night drive. He took us to try our luck at a leopard kill - an impala hoisted into a tree. The kill was easy to spot but no sign of a leopard.

 

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We hung around with the engine off and on a hunch Grant drove into the bush and then thought he had seen some 'eye shine'. After a few minutes of re-positioing and some excellent 'guiding' our newbie vehicle mates got to see this in the black night.

 

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We were all very happy and then even more so when the young leopard came down off her resting place and walked towards the tree with the kill in it. We could also hear a hyena and then caught a glimpse of it at the same time the leopard did and after a brief glance in that direction the leopard then climbed the tree - that's two firsts for us - a leopard kill in a tree and a leopard actually climbing up a tree.

 

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The leopard then examined her kill and moved about trying to decide the best spot to settle down onto so that she could have her supper.

 

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It had been perfect timing on our part as we got to see her go from resting to climbing to eating and we left her in the darkness cracking bones as we drove off very happy with our first day at Kings Camp.

 

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GoPro and iPhone video of the day. Mrs deano took the leopard footage and apart from holding the phone portrait mode did a great job I think.

 

 

more to follow.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

 

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@@deano

 

Time to install Find my iPhone app :-)) . About the constant warnings, I can hear you loud and clear (or is it Zvezda's voice?!)

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And the fun continues!

 

You have to agree with me though @@deano that this is rather epic leopard footage/sighting ;) !

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@@deano, hearing about poaching is one thing, seeing it right in front of you is altogether different, how distressing to witness. What a great thing though that maybe your group contributed in a small part to saving this particular animals life. Lets hope so. Timbavati was bone-dry when we were there last March.

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@@xelas - We didn't need the 'Find my iPhone' thing as technically it wasn't lost...just geographically misplaced somewhere in 60,000 hectares of South African bush! I am so glad we found it though as my life would have been unbearable if we hadn't; I find that selective deafness works best to deal with nagging.

 

@@martywilddog - glad you like them. They are fun to put together and a nice way to spend a few minutes when I have some spare time and want to remind myself that I always have either good memories or new ones to look forward to. Mrs deano did very well with her footage although I have to say that later on in the trip we missed a leopard carrying an impala into a tree but got to see the footage from our vehicle mates on their iPhone; now that was epic and I was slightly jealous!

 

@@elefromoz - poaching is always going to happen and like you said hearing about is one thing but we saw the real deal although thankfully it was about as "good" as a poaching incident can get. There is not much that upsets me but I will admit that I had a lot of emotions going through me at that point in time. As for the drought; we kept hearing about it being the worst in 60 years and that was evident from the bush and the animals. The buffalo just looked tragic and seemed to suffer more than most and we saw a lot of carcasses that were just left alone by the predators. Still, it rained a lot while we were there and the green grass soon sprouted and I am sure that these critters are quite tough living in that environment.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Really enjoyed your story so far! Very jealous of your brown hyena and wild dog sightings- still both on my wish list!

Edited by Robjwilli
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Thank you @@Robjwilli. I think wild dogs are on everyone's wish list. Love your profile pic - those fellows make my favourite sound in the bush.

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@@deano Enjoying your latest report. I was in the Timbavati last May and it was very dry. It is encouraging to see some greenery in your photos and to read reports of rainfall in other fora as i will be returning in May this year as I really enjoyed it last year and had some excellent sightings of leopard and elephants in particular.

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@@pomkiwi - Timbavati got a lot of rain while we were there in December as did Sabi Sands a few days later. We actually got to see a river start flowing (briefly) which was pretty cool as we'll. Today's installment has a nice leopard sighting and also a nice elephant sighting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Hi @@deano Great work mate. I was in Krüger from 6th -14 the december and during my stay at Satara One Night we had 75mm Rain.will go into more Detail in my Report .

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Day 5 Kings Camp Timbavati:

 

Our leopard sighting last night delayed us a bit and we were late back for dinner and so proceeded straight to the dining room and enjoyed a really nice salmon dish. We decided that an early night was in order so after a night cap (of guess what?) we headed back to the room to sleep. It was great to hear tales of frequent leopards in camp from our night watchman who accompanied all guests after dark. Must be pretty cool and pretty scary at the same time having a job like that.

 

Next morning and we had requested a bush walk at some point just to get our fix of being close to the bush and were happy that our Guatemalan friends wanted to join us and Grant decided that today would be the day as it was already hot with temps expected to increase as the week went on. After a short drive - stopping to look at vultures and a dwarf mongoose as well as some prominent tracks - we hopped off and enjoyed a long slow walk.

 

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We talked about the bush and spent a lot of time at a buffalo carcass or two - they were dropping everywhere and the predators either just fed on the choice pieces or left them alone altogether. Next up was a tortoise who was fun to watch up close before finding that Jules had moved the vehicle from where we had left it so that we could enjoy a nice drink stop and an impala dung spitting contest. Grant was the winner but only because he has had more practice than me.

 

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We headed back to camp and since it was quite hot there was not much happening but always something to see like this cuckoo and Wahlbergs eagle that flew down to land not far from the road.

 

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Back at camp now for breakfast and we sat out on the patio for a full fry up (my personal favourite meal) and watched the monkeys and bush bucks taking advance of dumb tourists and shady areas under trees - you can decide for yourselves who did what!

 

The grounds at Kings Camp are nice and open and they have an amazing elevated viewing deck so I parked myself there for a few minutes before deciding that I really needed to get some rest before the afternoon game drive. I would have plenty of time in the next couple of days to enjoy that deck. After a nap that turned into a sleep we met the others for afternoon tea and were happy to see Thomas and Karina again from Madikwe and I was right that we would have a fun and happy group that all just enjoyed the experience of being out there.

 

Very very hot today and the start of the afternoon drive was a real sticky affair so we stuck to shady (dry) river beds for the first part checking for leopards in trees and anything else for that matter. We encountered some buffs who gave us that glare that only they can but at least these guys looked to be in slightly better condition that the first lot we saw but still a bit skinny. They were certainly in better condition than the poor beasts we saw while walking that's for sure.

 

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A lot of steenbok around in the Timbavati today and I even managed to get a half decent photo of one before our afternoon sundowner stop.

 

I am not sad in the photo below; rather I think I was chewing on some biltong that had got stuck in the corner of my mouth (you have surely all experienced that unless of course you are vegetarian).

 

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As usual, Grant advised us of the best location for the bush toilet and after it had been visited by all it was a surprise to see a small clan of spotted hyena emerge from the bush in that general direction and I grabbed my camera and plonked myself down on the ground to enjoy watching them. they actually moved quite close to us and it was really nice to see them on foot as it were or was it because I had a camera and a Jamesons? Hmm.....tough one to call.

 

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They moved off to where we could just see them and we finished off our sundowners and hopped back on to the vehicle. I would have liked to have followed them but Grant had other (better) ideas and we headed back towards camp in the half light after sunset and tried our luck again at the leopard kill from last night. This time she was already up the tree and posing in a "funny" position and I had to contort myself across the back seat to get some pictures but it was a nice sighting with the first stages of the night sky starting to appear along with a moon in the background. With some more time and a lot more skill on my part I'm sure I could have come up with quite an arty photo but instead I went for leopard in tree standards but make no apologies for the LIT overload that follows.

 

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So, Timbavati Day 2 ends with a leopard in a tree again. I could get used to this.

 

GoPro/iPhone video to finish.

 

 

More to follow.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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