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My OH managed to snare a straight 5-night stay a month and a half before he booked, paid up in full and confirmed his trip to Tswalu. It's unheard of for Tswalu to have such a long stretch of available nights but he had to wait for a couple of weeks before a 3-night availability became a 5-night, so he could take advantage of the stay 5, pay 4. 

I jumped on his trip a week before the trip after results of my various dogs' medical tests came back not that positive but not too negative either. 

This was his trip, and I was more than happy to be there for the ride, and to travel with him after two years' of having separate holidays. 

This is my second visit to Tswalu after I had stayed 5 nights in May last year. I'll be very sparse with text this report since I've said most of what I felt in the first  TR (http://safaritalk.net/topic/16403-all-creatures-small-and-beautiful-tswalu-cape-of-good-hope-np/#comment-199997)

 

Although I saw many of Tswalu's nocturnal specialities in May last year, the aardvark eluded me. I was back to stalk the mysterious creature - will it show up? a clue....

 

 

 

 

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It was great to be back at the very comfortable Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg where we transferred to another flight to the reserve. You can't fault service in Tswalu - it's always impeccable, and so it was at Tswalu's hangar. we had a shower and had brunch and just relaxed. we were the only guests flying into the reserve, but for company on the flight, we had a freelancer guide and a new employee with the security/anti-poaching team. 

Tswalu had a couple of small changes since my last trip but much of the place remained the same. They'd talked about undertaking refurbishment this year but the lodge has been so busy the management had no time to close the lodge. the refurbishment is now pushed to next year.

Our guide is Kosie, an affable and experienced guide who hailed from Sabi Sands, while tracker Ben has been set on his career since young and many times this pair brought tracking to fruition while we were there. Kosie immediately recognised me but embarassingly I didn't recognise him. he had guided me on  my last morning at Tswalu after my guide Adrian left earlier with the flight to Johannesburg. I had known him then as Chris, but I still couldn't recognise him.

My OH had a  long list of species he wanted to see - aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, brown hyena, oryx, roan, sable, meerkats, and a big male kudu - all of which he had not see before. 

 

The drive to the lodge yielded the first species - the enchanting roan. Long of ears, large of eyes, and the curiousity of a giraffe, the first roan was giving us directions with its expressive ears, but it didn't seem to make up its mind.

I saw only 2 roans last year, and each at separate occasions and area, and on its own.

But on this trip, the first roan was the start of rollcall of some 25-30 roans - just on the first day. that's almost half of the estimated 60 roans that are in Tswalu! they sure rolled out the red carpet for my OH. 

 

turn to the right...

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or actually drive to your left

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or maybe it's neither

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Roans at the Tswalu waterhole

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and more roans during the evening game drive...

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a group of four roans 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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So the red-chested korhaan sneaked its way into the previous roan post! we saw a lot of the red-chested korhaans on the reserve. 

 

and other species we saw during the drive - oryx (first for my OH), giraffe, the wildebeest which was hanging out with a group of 4 roans, red hartebeests, and shy and skittish elands. 

 

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as the sun slipped below the horizon the shy elands peeked out at us. 

 

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with the sun showing its face on the other side of the round planet earth, Ben took out the spotlight. Kosie and Ben could hear our whispers and feel our breaths on them to deliver what we were silently saying to Tswalu. aardvark aardvark aardvark. Ben suddenly jerked the spotlight. I had no idea what he was doing, perhaps the spotlight went kaput and he was shaking it vigorously to get it working again. But Kosie knew. He said aardvark! OMG OMG, where where? there There. well the grass was knee high and the light was so low, i could just make grass rustling. kosie had stopped the car. he took a couple of minutes before he said come on let's go on foot. Quietly. 

we quickly got down - my OH was grappling with his DSLR and I was grappling this new heavy Sony thingie. and struggling with the equipment, we also had to watch where our feet were going to avoid stepping on branches (failed), and try to keep up with Kosie (fail) and still looked where that elusive creature was heading (Big Fail). 

The aardvark heard us and zoomed so fast into its den. Kosie went close to the hole and told us to listen to the poor creature trying to claw its way in the hole far far away from us. 

I Saw My AARDVARK!! okay. it was blurry and half the time I was seeing grasses then the animal. But i saw its shape - it was bigger than I expected - ears like rabbit but I couldn't see its face clearly. and all i got were two blurry photos which I will claim to be works of modern art (one of which is above). 

 

back into the truck we went. what else could we see tonight? brown hyena i breathed. aardwolf, my OH breathed. the spotlight had other ideas. it konked out. Ben spent about 5 minutes fingering and tweaking it, and viola! it worked. and 5 minutes later he was doing the jerky thing again. an Aardwolf. this time round, my filming of the aardwolf was way better than the last time.

 

 

 

 

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Very cool you saw your Aardvark on your first evening - and Aardwolf as well, yeah he´s gorgeous indeed. I really like the Roan portraits, very nice shots. You are certainly having a good safari year, Kit!

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@michael-ibk and it is burning a big hole in my pocket! But i have no complaints. Im blessed to be able to return to africa. Ive got to rush through this and im wondering if i can complete this in one and a half week's time!

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@kitsafari...yes you can do it!  OH must have been very happy to have you along with him.  And, your new camera works!  Eagerly waiting for more.

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Wow @Kitsafari great viewing and your photography has improved immensely. Some very nice Roan images.

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@janzin it was pretty awesome to see the aardwolf again. interestingly, we had a short conversation on the similarities between aardwolves and striped hyaenas , and it is hard to tell them apart. so that little chat got me googling and what do i find? a thread on ST on it. the things you find on Google search. 

 

For those who are interested in it: 

http://safaritalk.net/topic/8175-striped-hyena-vs-aardwolf/

 

 

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@marg thanks for reading along and having such confidence (and hope) that I can complete the TR in such a short time! i shall endeavour to do so. and Hi there John! and yea the camera works!! phew.

 

@Geoff thanks for the compliment but i think a great part of my "improved" photography has to be attributed to a new (and heavy) bridge camera Sony RX10 mIII. :Dwith a 1-inch sensor and a very good reach, it definitely performed better than I expected. I've yet to try night shots though. 

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The next morning we were promptly at the breakfast table at 6am. We had requested Kosie for an earlier start than 7am as we wanted to catch the first light. I think Kosie wasn't convinced initially that going out half an hour earlier would make a difference but by the second day, he was fully on board with our thoughts (more on that later). So Kosie had to ask the staff to prepare the breakfast half hour earlier, but you would never know the difference. AN entire spread of muffins, muesli with yoghurt, yummy pastries, cheese platter, energy drinks (my favourite being the apple, ginger, celery and beetroot i think) was always laid out by 6am. 

The other thing we requested was packed breakfast in the bush everyday so that we didn't need to rush back for breakfast/brunch. we would always return in time for lunch at 11+, except for the day we left when we returned for breakfast. 

When we arrived in Tswalu, the cold spells were almost over, spring was in the air, and the hot front blew in. Just our luck that we brought the hot climate of our tropical country along to Tswalu. that week we were there, the mercury rose to as high as 35 degrees centigrade, which was a bummer as most of the animals were tucked under shade by 10am. so perhaps leaving earlier was the right call after all.

 

giraffes - early risers

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Edited by Kitsafari
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taking a leisurely loop, we went in search of the lions in the eastern section. Tswalu is a fenced reserve and in the middle, split by a public road, the western section (where the lodges are) and the eastern section is further  divided by fences. The fences on the eastern section is to fence in the largest predators - the lions - so that the valuable antelopes particularly sables which are bred in Tswalu are protected.

 

Ben locked the gate behind us when we entered the eastern side, behind another vehicle with a gentleman guest. the rangers were scouring the ground as pugmarks of male lions were all over the section. to cover all ground, the other vehicle headed to the right while we headed to the centre. luck stayed on our side as Ben and Kosie found the lion tracks back on our route. we followed the tracks for quite a distance, when suddenly Kosie pulled over. the male cats were right in front of us.

 

yay! both pride males - gorgeous specimens in their prime and well toned and healthy with their luscious black manes. not that they allowed us to admire in their full glories as both males gave us the African salutes and 5 minutes later, they were flattened in the long grasses. At least we saw them standing and walking! the other guests who came to see them reported they were still flat till the evening. i saw them in my last trip but they were resolutely horizontal at that time. 

 

 

 

 

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at one point, one of them got up and started sniffing the air, staring into the distance and hearing something we couldn't hear or see. but then flat he went again. 

 

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It was a morning of cats as we left to go to a waterhole where two lionesses were sighted. the surprise though was these two felines were from the northern pride, and were trespassing in the southern pride's territory. these two females were massive - really mascular and bulked up. in fact, one of the females has an infamous reputation as a really grumpy cat and often snarled when the vehicles went too close for her liking. Today though, she was preoccupied. she vanished beyond a ridge while her sister laid down and waited. then she reappeared, as if she was searching for something. she walked very close to our vehicle but ignored us (phew).

The two males were not that far away,

 

and no one had seen the southern pride yet, but the fear was that these two females could kill young cubs of the southern pride. happily that didn't happen. 

 

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slurp... what's for breakfast?

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Getting in close proximity with these massive healthy males is always awe inspiring. The way way they move even when they are ambling along shows their rippling muscles and their raw power. Glad you found them :)

 

and those females are pretty impressive!

 

Edited by wilddog
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On 9/24/2017 at 10:04 AM, Kitsafari said:

My OH had a  long list of species he wanted to see - aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, brown hyena, oryx, roan, sable, meerkats, and a big male kudu - all of which he had not see before. 

 

 

This wishlist would probably give guides a heart attack elsewhere, haha. Looks like a really special place!

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@Kitsafari

 

How envious I am that you managed a return visit to Tswalu. I often toss over the idea of going back --  still have a few things I need to accomplish there, one of those being the aardwolf. Great video. 

 

And I am thrilled that you managed your aardvark this time.  Congratulations!  I'm glad you were able to travel with your OH. Looking forward to more. 

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Great sightings, photos and video - so jealous of aardwolf and aardvark!! But really glad you and H got to go

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Fantastic sightings!  I would need to win the lottery to afford to go to Tswalu!  

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@wilddog @Mark @SafariChick @kittykat23uk thanks for dropping by!  and I was glad too to be finally once again sharing the sightings and thrills of seeing new species with the OH.

haha Mark, our guide hid his shock pretty well and managed our expectations well too. 

 

@Alexander33 I was very glad to have a chance to get back in a different month too. based on the two visits - i've decided that July and August are the best months to catch the nocturnal species and see a lot more of them during the daylight 

 

Kittykat23uk - you don't need to strike a lottery - i reckon you saw more at marrick than we did in tswalu and that's probably only a fraction of Tswalu's costs! 

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A brunch had been organised for all the guests at a venue that was built by the previous owners for dining events. Lodged against the cliff of a hillside, it offered spectacular views of the beautiful semi-arid landscapes. 

 

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in between, we took long meanders. As I had pre-warned my OH, sometimes you could drive and see an antelope or two, and sometimes you don't see much. but we did see some animals here and there, and one of the more interesting sightings was a group of elands. In Tswalu, elands do not stop for you. perish the thought of taking a shot of them posing nicely for you. But a creche of young adults with a handful of adult minders was curious about us. They ran towards us, stopped at a distance, studied us, and decided we weren't worth a longer look. 

 

 

 

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we also stopped at a waterhole for a coffee prior to the brunch. the mammals stopped coming in when they saw us, but the birds were thirsty.

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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Last year I saw numerous hartmann's zebras down from the mountains but this time, we saw only one herd, and only a handful of plains zebras. 

 

a plains zebra waiting for us to leave the waterhole

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Last year, I was in Room 5, next to the main hall and I had great views of species walking to and from the waterhole. this year we were in Room 1, the room furthest away from the main hall. we still saw some wildlife from inside the room (rather than from the terrace as the smaller ones got nervous when we were out there). these were from the first day since I haven't loaded the pix from the other days.

 

Mountain reedbucks, which scuttled when they heard us rushing to the windows for a shot. I initially thought they were duikers :unsure:

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a handsome roan strolling to the waters

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a ground squirrel enjoying his tidbit

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we were out at around just before 4pm. this time, several guests headed out before us. the afternoon delights at tea were such an improvement over last year. the chef has changed and this one believed in giving us loads of varieties and yummy teacakes. My favourite hands down was the fluffly light choc lamingtons, but often times, i would reject teacakes but my OH couldn't resist. 

 

the start of the drive was sedate as always was in Tswalu. 

 

one of only a few tsessebe in the reserve

 

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a female ostrich sitting on her nest. you can just make out one egg next to her neck. on the way back as the night approached, as Kosie had predicted, it was the male on the nest. but tragically the next morning both parents were gone and we found the eggs had been broken up, probably eaten by another species. 

 

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one of those LBJ - little brown jobs. birdlife in tswalu isn't colourful. unlike the last time, we saw few birds of prey. 

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