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Animals A to Z. Aardvark to Zebra


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KiwiGran

Just back from our 4th safari to South Africa. Before we went I jokingly said to my husband I would love to be able to write a trip report entitled Aardvarks to Zorilla. Well I got half the title!

People often ask if the safari has bettered or measured up to the other ones we have done and more and more I realise that safari is all about the experience, not just ticking off sightings, and this time I found myself understanding more of each animal because each sighting adds to the experiences of the past. I note a topic on the forum about giraffe so taking that animal as an example, I have now seen giraffe in small groups and this time in a large group of over 20, I have seen them browsing, drinking, I have seen young ones and old males, I have seen a young one drinking from its Mum, I have seen one sitting down, I have seen them walking so stately and then this time several occasions of them galloping both in a large group and on their own. So I have a much fuller experience of giraffe than I had on our first safari.

This report wont have a lot of photos – 2 reasons. 1 just have a small point and shoot and I don’t have much luck with night photography. Secondly this time I just wanted to immerse myself in the experience and really watch. I also found that my senses of sight, hearing and smell are not nearly as acute as the guides and trackers and tried to develop those a bit.

 Our itinerary was

21st May Flight from our home in New Plymouth to Auckland and then on to Sydney where we stayed he night in the Rydges Sydney airport hotel.

22nd  Sydney to Johannesburg, overnight at City Lodge

23rd  Flight Jphannesburg to Hoedspruit and transfer to Buffelshoek Tented camp in the Manyeleti Game reserve which is adjacent and open to Kruger and Sabi Sand. 2 nights there

25th Transfer to Shindzela tented camp in the Timbavati for 5 nights

30th Transfer back to Hoedspruit, flight to Johannesburg and then flight to Kimberley for 3 nights at Marrick Safari Farm

2nd Back to Johannesburg and on to Sydney for a night then fly home.

 

We broke the journey at Sydney each time to try and prevent the bad jet lag my husband had the last time we went.

 

So to the experience.

Buffelshoek has just 5 tents and is unfenced. They have a lovely dining area and above that a viewing platform from where we had a great view of the plains and the many animals – elephant, zebra, warthogs, buffalo, impala. They also have a pan very close to camp so watched elephants and zebra drinking there.

 

So to our first drive and the first sighting we had was of a big ele bull – so good to be back! He was very relaxed and we got nice and close.

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On we went more eles, the country is much more open grassland than we have seen before other than around Satara and in Kruger itself so we saw lots more big groups of zebra, nyala and the like.

 

Next a male lion stretched out asleep and a bit further on another male and a lioness who were mating – a first for us. We were able to watch for some time.

Sleeping lion

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Beautiful lioness

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After the mating

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Towlersonsafari

Hurrah an Aardvark-and i love the light on your photos @KiwiGran

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KiwiGran

Thanks @Towlersonsafari The Aaardvarks come at the end of the trip. Really appreciate your comment on the light.

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KiwiGran

Our guide Prince got a call on the radio and we set off back the way we had initially come in to Manyeleti and turned off on the road to Honeyguide. A gorgeous sunset then a lovely sighting of a female leopard who walked right past the vehicle and then into a drainage line.

And so back to camp. The guides have access to all of Manyeleti so it can be quite a drive when sightings are called in and quite cold on the way back. A little duiker crossed the road and hesitated as he got caught in the headlights, giving us a great view. Also a very clear sighting of a civet in the spotlight.

And so ended our first day on safari, so wonderful to be back.

 

Day 2

Our drive started with a lovely sighting of 5 giraffe with the rising sun behind them, such graceful animals and always a joy to see. Then a call for another pair of mating lions, quite a long drive to see them and on the way saw a large group of 20 or so Nyala males, a black backed jackal in the grass and a small herd of buffalo.

The mating lions were an older pair, the male very scarred, we were able to spend quite some time at this sighting with only one other car present. As we were watching, we spotted a little tree squirrel playing on an old tree stump. They are so cute and quick and this trip we saw them alarming several times something I have only see on Live safari previously.

On the drive back a group of 4 Ground Hornbills including a juvenile – good to see them thriving.

This was a long drive 6am to 10.10 so the sight of breakfast was very welcome and what a super breakfast it was. Kenneth, the chef at Buffelshoek provided fabulous meals. Fruit, cereals, yoghurt were set out and then you could order whatever hot breakfast you wanted and he cooked it then and there – I had a superb omelette.

 

The afternoon drive started auspiciously with a little Scops Owl roosting in the shelter where the vehicle was parked. We had heard them at night and Prince told us they are strictly nocturnal compared to the pearl Spotted which is active during the day as well. Owls were a target for me this trip so was very thrilled to see this little fellow another first.

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As we started the drive another bull elephant, then in the grass on the side of the road a first for me (Prince was surprised as they are very common but that’s the thrill of safari, seeing something new) – a pack of banded mongoose. So fast, just a brief sighting so no photo but so pleased to see them.

I was fascinated by the undulating way they moved. Vervet monkeys were alarming on the other side of the road.

Then the highlight of the drive a female leopard named Shiluva, meaning Flower and what a gorgeous leopard she is, this was the leopard we saw in the spotlight the first night. She was lying in the sand of a river bank and Prince manoeuvred the vehicle in so that we were very close. The light was great and her coat just glowed and looked like velvet. She was very unconcerned by us being so close. Prince told us she had been seen mating recently so they were hopeful that she may be pregnant.

 

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This was a great drive, we next had another sighting of the mating lions and then while spotlighting a brief view of a wild cat and then another female leopard on a termite mound quite close to camp. She too was very relaxed and we got some great views as she moved off in a real hunting mode. Also another first for me and another owl – white faced owl.

Back for a delicious dinner, very happy with the days viewing.

 

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pomkiwi

@KiwiGran A long journey! Did breaking the journey in Sydney help with the jetlag at all? I also like the light in your first set of pictures and you had a great welcome back to the bush with the sightings on your first two drives.

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KiwiGran

@pomkiwi the break in Sydney made a huge difference and virtually no jet lag at all this time apart from a few nights broken sleep. Being able to fly back to NZ the next day and get to our home in New Plymouth that day was infinitely preferable to arriving in Auckland at 1am after 2 long flights and not being able to get home till the next day. I will be following your Bush House trip report with interest, I have investigated the Bush House several times but it is expensive to get transfers to - how did you get there? Yes we sure got a great welcome back to the bush, there is nothing else like it.

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KiwiGran

Day 3

A quiet mornings drive but we had really enjoyed Manyeleti. Very few vehicles so felt quite wild, lots of varied terrain and plenty of wildlife. Lots of plains animals, zebra, nyala, impala etc. We didn’t see any rhino, poaching is still a problem that they are working on so guess the rhino were rather skittish. Prince tried hard to find us a cheetah but that eluded us, but we could see it would be great cheetah country.

 

Our transfer picked us up after breakfast and we headed off to Shindzela a drive of about 3 hours. We were keen to see the upgrade at Shindzela that had happened since we were last there in 2016 and were very pleased to see it hadn’t changed the wonderful atmosphere of the unfenced tented camp with just 8 tents. We were most impressed, the bathroom areas had been upgraded, the beds were extra comfortable, the dining area renovated but still with the friendly open air feel and the new vehicles were a pleasure.

 

After lunch off on our first drive with only 6 to the vehicle (it varied between 6 and 9 while we were there).

Firstly a herd of buffalo at the dam, good to see a number of calves. Then a really interesting sighting, a water monitor on the track – you may say what is so special about that? Well, as we drove off we found his tracks clearly in the sandy track, zig zag, zig, zag and we followed those tracks for an estimated 2km or more!  What a journey for him and what was he making that long journey for??

 

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Then as we came around a corner – lions! And very skittish – 2 lioness and then we spotted a male under a bush. We watched for a while but the lioness were very jumpy so our guide Cameron shifted the vehicle so that we weren’t between the male and the lioness and that seemed to settle them. Cameron told us we were in the area where the previous day they had found a giraffe trying to calve but the foetus had died and was stuck in the birth canal.

He decided to try and approach the male again and within a few minutes found the giraffe carcass, the lions had killed her during the night. The carcass had been opened and the foetus clearly visible. My husband who has assisted with many births on the farm said it appeared the baby was presented head first with the front legs folded back so would never have been able to birth as the shoulders would get stuck. Very sad to see but this is nature, and this death meant life for others. Over the 5 days we were at Shindzela this scene provided an amazing story and we were privileged to be witness to it.  We left the scene knowing we would be back to see how it evolved.

 

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Next stop was at a dam and here we found 3 rhino, a bull and mother and sub adult calf. This proved to be a wonderful sighting, we have seen many rhino but never action like this. Every time the bull tried to approach the young one the mother speedily chased him off with lots of noise, growling and snorting, I wish I had got a better video of it but I was so enthralled with the action I only thought to video once the bulk of the aggression had passed. In the finish the bull retreated behind a bush obviously rather chastened! We sat there silently for ages and it was fascinating to see them come closer to the vehicle – their indecision was obvious, they could smell us but probably couldn’t see (it was towards dusk) and would advance then retreat, then come closer again. We finally moved off as Cameron said they probably wanted to go and have a drink at the dam.

 

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The drive was completed with a lovely sighting of a juvenile Verreaux Eagle Owl, a super first drive on Shindzela.

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KiwiGran

Day 4

A beautiful misty morning. We had heard leopard overnight so tried to find him, lots of tracks but couldn’t find him.  Back to the giraffe carcass and huge surprise – there were now 3 cubs there!! Cameron was very confused, he didn’t recognise the two lioness – one very pale (? Some white lion genes), the other a very large lioness. He identified the cubs as from the Avoca pride, their mothers had died and the pride had rejected them, one cub was lame and couldn’t keep up. He had a report of them being seen the day before and we were amazed to hear that position was probably close to 12km away. How had they made their way here, how did they know the carcass was here, what had happened overnight, would the mature lions allow them to feed and who was the male? As we were trying for a better position we found another cub in the grass this one was dead,  it looks as if a bite had snapped its spine, possibly killed by the male, by the big female or even by hyena. There were originally 5 cubs, now seemed to be down to 3. Cameron was very sad to find the dead cub but we were heartened to see 2 of the cubs and the big female feeding on the carcass. The cubs are very small and stunted, Cameron said they are 18 months old but look half that age. We watched them for ages from all angles.

 

Lioness and cub feeding

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Cubs feeding

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There was much speculation back at camp that night among the guides and trackers as to who the lions were.

 

We continued the drive seeing a pair of woolly necked storks, another first and then a big male leopard on top of a termite mound but we could only see his head. Sam our tracker told the story of the tracks in the sand (I love watching trackers at work). There had been a female leopard and cub coming one way along the road, the male the other way and they had met up.

 

Our afternoon drive started well for me, I had been hearing lots of pearl spotted owlets but had never seen one close up. Cameron had been watching out for one for me and suddenly there they were – yes 2 of them chasing each other, one landed in the tree and I got a really nice sighting – another first and another owl. And before long another sighting that was on my bucket list – elephants swimming, I was ecstatic!! Two young males were having such a good time in the water while in the distance at the edge of the dam a big bull was having a mud bath, what a special scene.

 

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When they came out of the water they had a great dust bath and one gave us a half hearted challenge. A breeding herd was close by and we spent some time with them too, I just love watching elephants.

 

Back to the carcass and the female was feeding and then the male fed and it was fascinating to see how his strength enabled him to move the carcass and open up new areas, so powerful. We expected to see hyena gathering by this stage but Cameron said the presence of the male would keep them away – because there were only a few lions feeding the carcass would last a long time and it was heartening to see the cubs getting rounder and rounder, as I said before the death of the giraffe meant life for the cubs.

 

While spotlighting we found a young male leopard cub, about 12 to 14 months old. We watched him in the thicket for some time then he crossed the road into Kruger. He was really chubby with big paws. Cameron said this would be the cub that we found tracks for in the morning. His Mum was leaving him more and more.

 

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This was a long drive, over 4 hours so we were late for dinner but at Shindzela  they are very relaxed about meal times which is great.

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KiwiGran

Day 5

A quiet morning drive, it was very cloudy, but as always there were highlights.

 

One was a sighting of an elephant, her young calf and an older calf. This sighting was unique in that the female had broken her back leg at some time and it had healed, though quite crooked and with a huge lump. But she could put weight on it and she had a beautiful 6 month old calf who behaved as most little males do and gave us a great show of being very brave challenging us and then running back to Mum. His little trunk was still not under good control which made viewing him very entertaining. My husband and I wondered if this was the same elephant we saw back in 2014, she also had the same injury she had a young calf on her at the time which would correlate to the bigger calf now; we will never know but nice to think so. Apparently this elephant has quite a following and Cameron was going to report back to them as it had been some time since they had seen her.

You can just see the lump on her right back leg in this photo.

 

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Mum and baby

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The other highlight was spotting the Avoca pride – 5 lioness, 1 sub adult female and 2 sub adult males, great to see them as we had spent a lot of time with this pride in 2016. We watched them sleeping, then starting to wake, getting up,  showing affection to each other, grooming and finally moving off.

 

Avoca pride grooming and bonding

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In the afternoon Cameron found them again but they were in dense bush and difficult to view.

 

We found the young leopard again while spotlighting and got some great views of him. Hyena on the way back and back at camp elephants drinking at the pan. How I love safari!

23a Mum and baby.JPG

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KiwiGran

Sorry about the last photo - I thought I had deleted it!

 

Day 6

 

First stop back to the giraffe carcass and another twist to the tale, the missing cub had arrived so 4 cubs there now but one had a severe injury on a back leg and was lying under a bush. The carcass eaten much more now but still a lot of meat available, the smell was getting quite strong this day!!  Lots of vultures were gathering in the trees, mainly white backed but a couple of lappet-faced and I think a white headed (or maybe the hooded, I forgot to record this). Still unwilling to come down to the carcass because of the male lions presence.

 

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Big male lion at the kill

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We carried on and Cameron got a report from a landowners son that he had heard leopard sawing so we headed in that direction. Cameron explained that an 82 year old lady lived there on her own and her son came to check on her at weekends. She owned some of the land that Shindzela traverse on, an amazing lady. The area around her house is a no go zone but we could hear squirrels alarming in a thicket and Sam picked up leopard tracks of both a male and a female but the tracks headed into an area we weren’t allowed to traverse. Such fun watching the guide and tracker at work.

Then we had another good sighting of rhino, a big bull, a sub adult and 2 female.

 

 

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On the way back to camp Cameron spotted a group of White Crested Helmet Shrike so we stopped for him to tell us more about them. Their breeding habits are fascinating – the flock has an Alpha pair in the group that bonds for life. The alpha pair select the nest site then all members of the flock construct the nest, bits of bark off trees being bound together by spider webs. The tuft of feathers on the forehead of the birds enables them to fly through and pick up spider webs. The Alpha female will lay between two and five eggs which are incubated in turn by all members of the group and the whole group assists with feeding the chicks.

 

Back at camp after another delicious lunch and a solitary male buffalo came to the pan to drink. And later a big elephant bull.

 

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The afternoon drive yielded lots of birds, green backed heron, African Hoopee, Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Harrier Hawk, Snake Eagle. We saw 2 white backed vultures nests, both occupied – Cameron so pleased to have 2 breeding pairs on the property. He showed us a Blue Wax bills nest made out of the blue dropsy grass.

 

Back to the giraffe carcass, great viewing of the male eating and 1 of the cubs eating. The injured one looking very weak.

 

Next a nice sighting of a big male giraffe.

 

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Warthogs, wildebeest, hippos, impala – just so much to see. While spotlighting we found the young leopard again, this time on a termite mound.

 

After a while he slunk off behind the mound and Cameron realised there were 2 impala not far away so we backed back and turned off the lights and sat in silence. We could hear the impala moving and the odd bark of alarm. Sitting there in the African night with lions roaring 500 metres away, a pearl spotted owlet calling one way, hyenas another and a full moon – it was absolute magic. Soon we had to leave the scene and get home for dinner as we were late yet again! But that was very special.

 

Young leopard hunting

 

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A good sighting of a chameleon on the way home.

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KiwiGran

Day 7

 

As we came out on to our little deck to go and have a drink before we went for our morning drive the full moon was going down behind a small tree, such a beautiful sight.

 

We drove out to an area where we dropped off the two walkers and then headed out to the airstrip, Sam found fresh male leopard tracks and showed us how fresh they were by pointing out a drop of urine beside the tracks that was still wet. But again the tracks went out of the traversing area.

 

A nice group of waterbuck by the dam.

 

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Kudu , birds and then the sighting of the morning – a honey badger! We could see him for some time running around in the grass, so quick, impossible to get a photo. Then he went into a hole in the termite mound. So good to see him, we have had a honey badger sighting at all 3 visits we have had to Shindzela, which of course is named after the honey badger.

 

The highlight of the afternoon drive was again searching for leopard in the area where Susha the elderly lady lived. Again we lost the tracks into an area we couldn’t traverse but then got a call to say leopard tracks had been found on another track and as we headed back there we found her on the road – a big female leopard named Susha.

 

This was a superb sighting (although by spotlight now) and the girls that had joined us that morning on their first safari were so excited. We followed her for some time, Cameron explaining that she was on her territorial round. She has a cub , about 9 months old I think.There were several other vehicles wanting to come in on the sighting, this was the first time in the 5 days we were there that we had more than just ourselves or just the 2 Shindzela vehicles at a sighting. So once we had had a really good viewing Cameron pulled out and let others in.

 

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Day 8

 

And so to our last drive on Shindzela, a very quiet drive but great as always to be out in the bush.

 

We spotted a hyena drinking from a small pan.

 

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A call on the radio for wild dogs but they were close to the Ngala boundary and very far away. Just the Alpha male and female and very old dogs. Cameron told us they had lost pups last year and are from the Ngala pack which originally numbered 20 but now 2 groups of 7 and 8 have split from the pack.

 

Stopped for a drink and a rhino came past moving very fast. After we all climbed aboard again we searched for him and Sam jumped off and tracked. When we picked Sam up again he said he had the rhino in sight a couple of times but he was travelling very fast, territorial marking . They can travel at 12 to 15km/hour.

 

Last sighting was a lovely one of two Verreaux Eagle Owls, a fledged juvenile and its parent. Such majestic birds.

 

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We had breakfast and packed up and while we were waiting in the dining area for our transfer I spotted another of my bucket list birds that I hadn’t seen previously, the white bellied sunbird. We saw it hovering and feeding on an aloe plant. Such gorgeous colours.

 

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Said goodbye to all and transferred back to Hoedspruit from where we flew to Johannesburg and on to Kimberley where we were met and transferred to Marrick Farm.

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Alexander33
On 6/5/2018 at 9:01 PM, KiwiGran said:

People often ask if the safari has bettered or measured up to the other ones we have done and more and more I realise that safari is all about the experience, not just ticking off sightings, and this time I found myself understanding more of each animal because each sighting adds to the experiences of the past. 

 

This is so true. I feel exactly the same. That first safari is always unforgettable, but there’s so much that’s new, it’s almost too much sensory overload. Now that I’ve been on a few more safaris, I find myself actually enjoying them more because the pressure to see this or that is removed, and, as a result, you are able to better immerse yourself in the experience — which often enables you to see, in a way, much, much more. 

 

Scops owl in the daylight. Thats a great way to kick things off.  Your trip has been productive enough so far. Looking forward to the Marrick section when you have time. 

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KiwiGran

Your comments much appreciated @Alexander33 That is what I love about Safaritalk, meeting people via the forums that are of like mind.

Marrick coming up!

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KiwiGran

Marrick Safari Farm

 

I had booked a cottage but the owner Trevor Datnow, said as we were the only guests he had upgraded us to the Honeymoon suite!!!  Pretty good for us in our 70’s and married for 50 years!  It was very comfortable.

 

We were in the main guest house which has lots of rooms, some ensuite and some with shared bathrooms. It is full of old memorabilia, lovely antique furniture, books etc , the Datnows have owned the property for many years.

 

After a delightful dinner we were off on our first night drive, leaving at 7pm. We wrapped up really well as we knew it would be cold and they supplied blankets.

 

First sighting was of two beautiful spotted Eagle Owls, my wish to see more owls was certainly being fulfilled this trip. Then lots and lots of spring hares, they were just everywhere.

 

We drove for some time with Johnny spotlighting, he has been taking tours for 15 years and his Dad does the driving. We had a distant view of 2 porcupine but even with binoculars they were hard to see. By 8.45pm I was freezing and a little thought was trying to pop into my mind saying “are you sure you should have come here” when Johnny said the magic word “Aardvark”! He had told us to stay silent if we spotted one as they are very shy. I carefully picked up the binoculars only to see the aardvark go back down his hole. Johnny kept the spotlight trained just to the side of the hole and we sat there quietly. I had the binos trained on the hole and then to my joy I saw the tips of ears, then the head and the amazing pig like snout, then the whole distinctive shape of the Aardvark, what a thrill. We watched it until it disappeared. I was still freezing but so warm inside!

 

A brief view of a Wild Cat, then around a corner and there was a porcupine, much closer and we got a great sighting, another animal that I had always wanted to see.

 

Further on a nice group of bat eared foxes – 5 of them running and jumping around, so interesting that they are insect eaters. They are also very cute. Back around the loop again and Johnny picked up the same Aardvark, this time much closer – Marrick sure was delivering.

 

Set off towards home and to my amazement found yet another Aardvark, this sighting was so interesting. It was in a bit of a hollow, we would see the animal, then it would disappear and next thing clouds of red sand would appear as the aardvark dug, then it would appear again and then the digging would resume and clouds of sand would come up, quite amazing how much sand this Aardvark shifted while we watched. After some time it wandered off giving us a great view.

 

And so back to the guest house where they had lit a fire for us and left out things to make ourselves a hot drink. We sat in front of the fire warming ourselves and recounting a wonderful first night drive.

 

Since I have been home I have found a great Utube video on the Aardvark which explained much of what we saw that night.

 

The last one we saw was definitely digging a burrow, they dig up to 5 a night and these are their escape and sleeping burrows. Marrick is littered with Aardvark holes.

Watching the Aardvark feeding on utube you can see he uses a different action to break open the termite mounds and it explains how they move on once the termites or ants start biting and that is exactly what we saw that night. So privileged to be witness to this amazing animal in its own environment.

 

I would like to post a link to that video but when I tried the video actually came up on the posting - is this acceptable? Im just not sure of the protocols of posting Utube videos here.

 

No photos from me but here is one taken at Marrick by Brian Culver, the guide we would spend the  day with at Mokala. Brian has kindly agreed to allow me to post some of his photos in my report.

 

1146181176_BriansAardvark.JPG.de861144a6751686e81be08c350dcf88.JPG

 

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michael-ibk

Three Aardvark sightings, just wow, fantastic!

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KiwiGran

Day 9

 

Rather nice to sleep in a bit this morning after 5am starts for the last 8 days. A delicious breakfast at 8am and then Trevor Datnow came and asked us if we would like to go with his son Mike to feed out to the stock, of course we said yes. What an interesting morning it was especially for my farmer husband who was able to ask Mike lots of questions

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They were feeding out Lucerne (alfalfa) hay and pellets. First to the kudu, much smaller than we see in the bush but Mike explained they take time to adjust to the type of vegetation on Marrick so they supplement them with the Lucerne.

 

Next Sable and so neat to see lots of them including their magnificent Sable bull, not quite the same as seeing them in the wild but still great to see.

 

883945478_41Sable.JPG.5f2ebaf400304a1c1801fdefd728a42b.JPG

 

Next the Roan and what beautiful animals they are. A group of youngsters were tearing around at a distance, so fast. Also some Eland that we could see well but they didn’t come to the feed. All these antelope were new for me so it was a real delight.

 

1336955972_40Roan.JPG.cc2ac64fbd8feb5c7329bda9be18d971.JPG

 

 

Next animals were the buffalo – they may be farmed but they still sure have attitude and I felt for the men feeding out as they looked rather frightened and for good reason. When they sell buffalo they are darted and taken out with a helicopter.

 

More Sable and back home, a great experience.

 

Just before lunch Mike came to tell us the meerkats were there. These meerkats are wild but some are the progeny of two pet ones they had, so come to be fed. Mike was feeding them chicken hearts. Such endearing little animals.

 

1937438254_42Meerkat.JPG.fa6aabc31f44f4e191eed4120a175b51.JPG

 

One of the farm dogs came over and these three were on the defensive!

 

904123410_43Meerkat.JPG.2f884f5c9c5c9a495c805e9cc9c35620.JPG

 

 

In the afternoon Johnny took us for a drive over the whole property. We saw a huge number of animals, most new to us, but all quite distant as some of these blocks are the hunting blocks and the animals naturally very skittish. From what we understood Trevor is working towards being able to discontinue the hunting,  Marrick is deriving income from a number of sources – eco tourism, selling game animals, mountain biking, conferences and weddings etc. But there is a large staff to pay, lots of expenses and it will take time.

 

We saw Blesbok, Bontebok, springbok, steenbok, Sable, giraffe (a lovely view of one galloping around), eland, black and blue wildebeest, impala, waterbuck, oryx. Also meerkat, ground squirrels, yellow mongoose, warthog, spotted eagle owl and bat eared fox – an amazing array.

 

And so to our next night drive. This time we were determined to be warmer and added even more layers I added long johns and another merino top, my husband added pyjama pants under his trousers, another shirt, plus balaclava and gloves – we felt a bit like spacemen or Eskimos but it worked, we were definitely warmer!

 

A slower drive. No porcupine this time but a very distant view of a black footed cat, more bat eared foxes, a black backed jackal that followed us for some time, heaps of spring hares. We wondered what predators the spring hares had as they seem so numerous – Google provided the answer and a number of these are present at Marrick – Caracal, wild cat, mongoose, jackals, large owls. Serval also but don’t think they are present .

 

  Amazingly yet another Aardvark, this one a huge male – Johnny explained that the males have more black hair colouring. This was an awesome sighting, again he went back down his hole but we waited and he came out again and we followed him for some time. So neat to watch him foraging for ants and termites.

 

The only animal we missed was the Aardwolf which surprised Johnny as they usually see them. But I was more than satisfied, 4 Aardvark sightings was so very special.

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KiwiGran

Day 10

 

An early start again, we made our own breakfast and Brian picked us up at 6am. Marrick packed a fabulous lunch for us, all the meals have been superb.

 

An hours drive to Mokala and at the gate by opening time of 7am. Very cold again, -3 degrees on the vehicle and you could see frost on the ground. After registration and paying entry fees we set off, so lucky to be with Brian who has a great knowledge of Mokala and its flora and fauna.

 

I was very keen to see the different landscapes – to quote from the park’s website – “Nestled in the hills, Mokala’s landscape boasts a variety of koppieveld (hills) and large open plains” Add the wonderful red sand and the Camel Thorn, Umbrella thorn and wonderfully shaped Shepherd trees and it really is so very different to anything we had seen before

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First sighting was a large herd of buffalo and these are the TB free buffalo. They looked very healthy.

 

Next, a first for us in the wild, the black wildebeest

 

 

823999853_44BlackWildebeest.JPG.08821225a3c1b8e887ab29b9b7a8dd4e.JPG

 

Sightings just kept coming – tsessebe, red hartebeest, oryx, springbok (including the dark variant) zebra (including some getting close to the Quagga), lots of steenbok, duiker, kudu.

 

Tsessebe

463701818_45Tsessebee.JPG.1d0bde837fd9c4771ccc6d8f61271d4c.JPG

 

Springbok

 

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A lovely group of over 20 giraffe and later we saw another big group galloping in the distance, we wondered what has spooked them as there are no predators but maybe they were just trying to warm up!

 

246513383_47Giraffe.JPG.394bc5fceb1ffdaecd46709d1df6335d.JPG

 

 

A lovely sighting of rhino (red from the sand) and later and mother and large calf.

 

 

846802622_48Rhino.JPG.662c453155a7cde16419603495ec3a0d.JPG

 

Mother and calf.

 

1442548400_48Rhinomotherandcalf.JPG.bfc68ec091e79821b6c5238df90b77c7.JPG

 

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KiwiGran

Day 10 contd

 

Another first for me in the wild – Dassie (Rock Hydrax) sunning themselves on the rocks – photo by Brian.

 

 

1543754132_50BriansDassie.jpg.68f16b24760afe6d6b55b9bf6a7ab5fe.jpg

 

A good sighting of 2 Yellow mongoose at a waterhole

 

1633854125_51Yellowmongoose.JPG.e5a8c503d2891fb7966a7f54f8e99daf.JPG

 

 

Lunch at a picnic spot, so peaceful, birds all around. Brian is a bird photographer and would be a superb guide for birders, he showed me lots but Im afraid many names escape me.

 

During the day we had 3 super sightings of Kori Bustard. Here is one of Brians photos

 

585907075_52Brianskoribustard.jpg.07de884dd4dcb57cd137693275c800f2.jpg

 

Several Pale Chanting Goshawks and a Greater Kestrel.

 

Pale Chanting Goshawk

386470551_52aBriansPaleChantingGoshawk.JPG.2b59056d2a10cc457b25abb68d9006d0.JPG

 

 

Ostrich were another new sighting for us, the males tail red from the sand

 

 

1537469286_53Ostrich(2).JPG.d66fe8170e3fe6f9e69b38fd30f53ae1.JPG

 

 We didn’t see any big groups of Oryx but we did see small groups of them at a distance and Brian kindly sent me a photo he had taken at Mokala in the summertime.

 

248220232_54BriansOryx.JPG.4708eef36a2b6fcdda5e65c616385004.JPG

 

 

We had thoroughly enjoyed our day in Mokala and thanks to Brian we saw a very large part of the park.

 

On the way home my Husband said what is that bird over there by the fence and I was so thrilled – it was a Secretary Bird, another first. No photo from me but here is one of Brians.

 

53129490_55BriansSecretaryBird.jpg.1af41d43a74e767594cd45c24212b6de.jpg

 

 

We decided against a third night drive. My arthritic hip was getting very sore, I had pushed it pretty hard,  we really didnt want to face the cold again and we had such wonderful sightings on the two drives we did. We also knew we had the long flight home ahead of us the next day. So spent a lovely evening by the fire reminiscing about the trip.

 

Mike took us back to Kimberley the next morning and we started the long journey home, flying Kimberley to Johannesburg, a wait of 7 hours, then Johannesburg to Sydney where we again stayed the night and the following day Sydney to Auckland, Auckland to New Plymouth and home at 8.30pm.

 

This trip was just awesome, wonderful places, wonderful people and so many wonderful sightings. Before we went I made a list of things I would like to see, then I put it away and didn't look at it again until we came home. Amazingly the only animals on that list that we didn’t see were Aardwolf,  pangolin and zorilla (I put those  just for fun with zero expectation!). We had new sightings of 5 owls, 3 rodents (porcupine, spring hare and Dassie), 3 mongoose, 9 antelopes, the Woolly necked storks,  Kori Bustard,  Ostrich, Secretary bird,  bat eared foxes,  black footed cat, several raptors and of course the Aardvark, a total of 28 new species for us.

 

But much more than that we had new insights into so many of the animals.

 

I now have a couple of weeks and then go into hospital for hip replacement surgery on my left hip (the right one was done 5 years ago). While convalescing I will keep my addiction to Africa fed reading trip reports on Safaritalk and watching Live Safari.

 

Thanks to all those who have followed along and for all the likes and hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as I have writing about it.

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Wonderful report thanks @KiwiGran. Lovely Sable bull.

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TonyQ

Wonderful- an epic journey to get there, but a great time when you arrived!

It is so enjoyable to just soak up all of the experiences and to watch behaviour.

The more you look, the more interesting it becomes.

A great ending wit all of your Aardvark sightings.

Thank you for posting.

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michael-ibk

Really enjoyed your report, thanks so much for sharing. Marrick is really emering as a top Aardvark place, and it´s good to see more options than $$$$$-Tswalu for that. All the best for your surgery!

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Peter Connan

Thanks for a great report and best wishes with the surgery! Hope your recovery is full and really fast!

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