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Cats and Dogs - a return to Kambaku River Sands


pomkiwi
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I think I'm a creature of habit.

In this case a third trip to Kambaku River Sands in January proved to be a good habit. 4 days brought lots of time with lions, a wonderful day with a leopard and two wild dog sightings. I'll post some highlights over the next few days.

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Keen followers will recall that I have been to Kambaku River Sands twice before and in early January when a good fare popped up in the BA sale I was able to book 4 nights there at the end of the month. Travel arrangements were very much as before with a BA flight to Johannesburg followed by a South African Airways flight to Hoedspruit and a 30 minute transfer to the lodge.

 

All went reasonably smoothly although an hour delay on the BA flight followed by 40 minutes waiting for baggage meant that a leisurely connection ended up as a sweaty sprint through Johannesburg Airport.

All was forgotten however as I arrived to a hot afternoon and settled into a cold beer in a familiar location. I have described the lodge in previous reports and in the lodge review section. Not much has changed although I thought the food had improved on this trip. 

There was a chance to speak to the guiding team I had been with previously and discussion turned to wild dogs – we had seen more than 30 in three sightings last year but none had been around for 3 months or so.

 

Soon we headed off and went to a pride of very sleepy lions. Other than raising an eyebrow or two they didn’t stir and we headed away.

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MFH_6102.jpg.0b7c53b0cf397b936baf6b084b3745e9.jpgA young elephant decided to intimidate us.

 

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He then tried to steal Mum’s meal.

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After a while of not seeing much we found a lioness who was hunting.

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Despite appearances she was not trying for an elephant but rather kudu hidden from view. The elephant however was not pleased to have the lion around and she retreated.

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@Atravelynn - certainly is :)

 

We left the lion before anything further developed and it is was clear from the chat over the radio that something more interesting had been spotted. We continued along the road and came over a small rise to see some oncoming traffic:

 

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A good sized pack of wild dogs was trotting along although the light was failing fast.

 

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I love the way that these photos demonstrate the extreme range of movement of those 'radar' ears.

 

One dog showed the sign of an encounter with a antelope horn or possibly a tree branch - mobility was not affected

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Three dogs became alert and trotted off into the bush. They then prceeded to worry a large wildebeest:

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They soon tired of their sport and went back to the pack. For those of you with long memories this incident was almost identical to a similar encounter last year but I can promise this is not from the same set of photos!

 

The pack headed to a dam an showed brief interest in a coupleof waterbuck who sensibly reteated into the water. The pack didn't follow and settled to drink. It was now almost completely dark and although a few images were captured the ISO was at 12800 and the dogs were some distance away - not fit for this critical audience.

 

A good first drive and very happy that my luck with dogs continues (spoiler alert - there will be more).

Edited by pomkiwi
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The following morning was bright and sunny.After a quiet  half an hour we found a group of giraffes. It quickly became apparent that two of the males were necking. This is a behaviour I have seen before but only between younger adults who were not particularly serious. These two meant business however.MFH_6329.jpg.576023ff817762f5df8165a733dd4153.jpg

 

They were swinging their heads hard at each other at speed and making contact with a thud we could hear clearly from about 100m away. At times they would almost lift their oponent off their feet.

 

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Every so often one or other would try and aim low - it was clear what they were aiming for.

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After about 20 minutes they reached a very elegant stalemate:

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But were soon back at it again as we drove away. really interesting behaviour and great to be able to watch it for nearly half an hour.

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Peter Connan

Lovely series of shots!

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@Peter Connan Thank-you. There were many, many more!

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@pomkiwi great shots of the Giraffe's - look pretty serious to me :) .

Nasty wound on the Wild dog as well.

Love the report so far.

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michael-ibk

Great Dog scenes but that Giraffe sequence tops everything - absolutely awesome stuff!

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@Hads, @michael-ibk Thank-you. The giraffes fighting was a great sighting and fascinating - we spent about 20 minutes watching and listening.

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The rest of the morning was one of those relaxing drive where we cruised around and enjoyed some unremarkable but pleasant sightings.

 

A steenbok was calm - but seems to have a cataract in its right eye:

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I thought that for once impalas deserve some photographic love:

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It was nice to get a profile of a warthog rather than a tail view:

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 A zebra auditioning for a modelling career:

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Inspired by the giraffes, two old buffalos were wrestling but it was a very half-hearted affair and they soon went back to standing in the mud.

 

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Finally a hyena was having a roll and manage to loook quite cute - I like the detail of texture in the coat.

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Hippos

The afternoon drive was fairly quiet and we spent a fair amount of time enjoying the stillness of a waterhole as afternoon became evening.

Our first sighting of the hippo briefly excited one of the other guests into believing we had seen a crocodile:

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A forgivable error from a distance (although the Timbavati does not have crocodiles as far as I am aware).

 

Closer up it was clear this was in fact a hippo:

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Then there were two - with the larger spending much time seemingly resting on top of the smaller:

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Eventually the small one tired of this role and gave us a big yawn:

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We returned a little later for sundowners and playing at taking some silhouettes:

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I am enjoying your report @pomkiwi - it is keeping me going till our trip in July when we will be at Shindzela which is very close to Kambaku. We have seen crocodile at the dam there on a night drive. 

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More large mammals

 

During the same afternoon we moved watherholes to find a large herd of buffalo moving down to drink and then away through some lovely green bush, a real contrast to my earlier visits to the Timbavati when it was parched.

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We then had an encounter with a rhino which was a little closer than normal and than I might have preferred. Initially all was fairly much as usual with the rhino making steady progress:

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We stopped and he turned towards us

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My car mates were quite an excitable couple and whether it was their noise or our slightly accidental proximity but the rhino soon showed signs of annoyance:

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Our guide had been reluctant to start the engine to avoid further upsetting a cross animal but at this point we beat a fairly hasty retreat.

The rhino was still not especially happy with us as we made our excuses and left:

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Atravelynn

B&W perfectly suits that marching rhino.  I could hear the thud of the giraffe fight too!

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Aplogies for the delay in updating - due to another trip to Kambaku :)

 

The following day was fairly quiet although we started with an early sighting of vultures sitting in a tree.

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They did not seem to be there for any specific reason however so we moved on to a zebra who posed with some nice dawn light:

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A little while later we learnt of a male lion who was in a river bed. For some reason there was a real pantomime with another vehicle directing us this way and that.  Eventually our guide decided to put us where he felt best. Somehow the first  sight of a male lion always raises the heart beat I find.

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This one decided that the river bed was not the place to spend the day and instead got up and moved straight towards us:

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He came up the bank and passed within touching distance:

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I defy even the most seasoned safari goer not to feel a slight moment of anxiety as a lion passes out of site but still very close behind where you are sitting...

Shortly afterwards he settled down for a few hours n the shade:

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Atravelynn

 

"I defy even the most seasoned safari goer not to feel a slight moment of anxiety as a lion passes out of site but still very close behind where you are sitting."

 

I'm feeling anxiety sitting safely at my computer

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@Atravelynn  More anxiety to come......

 

After we left the lion we found a large group of elephants enjoying a cool down in a mud bath.

 

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As always the baby was kept securely in the middle of the group away from the threat of a vehicle and slightly pink photographer...

 

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Not much else happened on the rest of the drive.

 

In the afternoon I was on my own and we decided to go in search of a specific female leopard and her young cubs. We agreed that there was no need to stop for general game. A lot of time and effort was spent in the vehicle and on foot but on this occasion the leopard had no wish to be seen. Such is life on safari sometimes and I enjoyed the peace, quiet and aromas of a slow afternoon in the bush.

 

We were headed home in the dark when a pride of 7 or 8 lions appeared from the bush and proceded to wander around the vehicle and settle on the tar road:

 

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If you are not made slightly anxious by the type of encounter I described earlier with a lion passing close behind you out of sight then I am certain you would not maintain complete cool if a number of them are wandering close by and unseen in complete darkness. 

 

After a few minutes a second vehicle approached  and settled to enjoy the sighting:

 

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I was able to get one of my favourite safari images ever:

 

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We returned to the lodge for dinner with me reflecting on how you never write off a quiet drive until you reach your room (and happily smiling for hours)....

Edited by pomkiwi
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Atravelynn

You nailed the lion in the dark.  Nice luminescent gold outline in the black.

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@Atravelynn Thank-you. It was not completely straightforward as the light source was oblique to our position and not directly behind the lion. Still very pleased that another vehicle turned up (not something I often say).

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Awesome photo of the Lioness silhouette @pomkiwi 

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