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KwaZulu-Natal February 2019: sea, mountains, and birds in between


xelas

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xelas

That was the positive part of the afternoon. Then there was our drive back to Kempton Park, where we have had an appointment for braai evening at Peter’s home. 

 

In recent years, we are using an app called maps.me for navigation. Installed on an iPad, and skillfully used by Zvezda, it served us well in various countries where we have been driving. It never steered us away from what I thought was the proper direction. So little by little I have started to rely on the app more than on the paper map. To the point that I have not been careful if a paper road map is even with us.  

 

Maps.me excel once again by navigating us from Kempton Park to Walter Sisulu without a problem, keeping us on highways almost all the way to the gardens.  It was an easy drive of about 45 minutes.

 

It was around 16:00 (4 pm) when we left Walter Sisulu. The braai should start at 18:00 (6 pm) thus we planned to get to the room first, to have a shower and to change our clothes. The first warning sign I should noticed already when leaving the parking, as the app decided for a different road then on arrival. No problem, I thought, as the main road was easy to reach. Zvezda followed the app’s instructions and I followed Zvezda’s instructions … until I have noticed that we are off the highway, driving in a industrial suburb which I did not recognize fro our arrival drive. Damn. And then the hint of a safety panic kicked in. That tourists should not drive on side roads. That there are muggings and worse that can happen. Plus, that somewhere out there is Soweto, or other township. So quickly I turned back, trying to find the highway. It is difficult to give instructions to a panicked driver, Zvezda soon realized. Yet we have found our savior. Good. Well, not that fast, my readers. We have been on the highway … but it was not the same one as the arrival one. So more navigating by the app. Which also started to be confused. Like when there were multiple turn-offs. For the first 100 meters it says we are on the proper lane; when it was already too late, it “jumps” from the one we have been on, to the one right of us. But also about 20 meters higher …

 

Trying to get back involved using the wrong turns, driving through red lights, and voila … there is a train station. Or at least a lot of train tracks. And a lot of locals walking around. My feeling was that everyone looked into our car, asking themselves what the heck are those two lost and frightened tourists doing in this part of the town. Later on I have realized that we have been driving through a suburb of Johannesburg itself. 

 

More strange maneuvering gets us back to the same highway. This time I knew better than to leave it on the wrong exit lane. All is good now. Not for this hare. As the highway in fron of us was closed, and down we have to drive, into the same suburb we have worked hard to get out of just minutes ago!  Luckily this time the app showed us back onto the highway; there was a section of it under construction, and this messed with the navigator. 

 

A few more turns and finally we have found our direction to OR Tambo airport, and from there to Peter’s home. The whole ordeal lasted about 1 hr 15 minutes; instead of 45 minutes we were back in 2 hours. Of course no shower and no changing of clothes. We were visibly shaken, and a stiff one and a glass of wine was immediately offered, and accepted with gratitude.

 

The moral of the story is to never let your guards down. Like the boxers in the ring. Only that when driving in an unfamiliar town, there should always be a paper road map inside the vehicle. Orientation even on a large iPad screen is limited, while on the paper map there is the bigger picture of where to go.

 

Another lesson is how deeply into the brains all the warnings and stories about safety and crime in larger South African towns have embedded.  I am otherwise quite careless, yet this time the panic has had me in its fist firmly. Would it be better if I would be clueless about those perils? Probably yes, as we would find our way out quicker, maybe by asking a local guy to help us. Or maybe not.

 

So that was the scary story of the trip. Then it was time to enjoy the hospitality of the Connan’s family, and the fabulous braai dinner, and the scary moments were all quickly forgotten. After driving through the unknown Jo’burg suburb, driving back to the Inn in the dark was as easy as a walk in the park.

Edited by xelas
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xelas

ZIBULO HIDE

 

 

Sunday, our last day in South Africa … for 2019 anyway. However, as we have had our flight back in the evening, there was one more adventure waiting for us. 

 

Tdgraves have started her trip, and we have ended our trip in the same manner …. Birding with Peter Connan at Zibulo hide. Only major difference was we have started from Kempton Park, very very early in the morning. Pitch dark early in the morning. Peter knows the roads so our progress was quick, until the sun started to show its shiny face above the horizon. An we were driving directly into it! I still can not understood how Peter managed to drive into that blinding light.

 

But we have arrived at Zibulo; that is a place with several ponds, where different hides are constructed. Two of them are at the water level. On the photo below, the hide is on the left side, hidden in the retaining wall.  

 

100025998_KZN447.JPG.521375750f520d48a5b39a8954284802.JPG

 

This is the view from that hide, and some of the birds floating on the water or flying over it.

 

493792407_KZN448.JPG.5fed5bc9b12d1d26e550c23bef3ac103.JPG

 

Red-knobbed Coot

847655670_KZN449.JPG.81f8cb6e4b55fb43700cd755b1f90fb4.JPG

 

Yellow-billed Duck

1839003601_KZN450.JPG.1e1f8536143054c1bee386867beb62b2.JPG 

 

Reed Cormorant

1394712467_KZN451.JPG.d7e35ea2d5e215769b64b28e439c4998.JPG

 

305779261_KZN452.JPG.4cc1cf9faa0cf48641128833e6b5e0ef.JPG

 

Pied Kingfisher

1724603565_KZN453.JPG.acf14f84d02e5b0c24ad7c7b91ab12c0.JPG

 

Sacred Ibis

90549408_KZN454.JPG.5d2903204344b99e3e79f2d975539c66.JPG

 

Egyptian Goose

1993795736_KZN455.JPG.ecf73489eb6b180174c603d0e12f11d0.JPG

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xelas

Next hide. Similar situation, one looks in the water level. It has a different orientation, so is better when the sun is starting its way down.  

 

1372844541_KZN456.JPG.6cb1d22e0b71ccfe9fe772e4d9c0a16c.JPG

 

565641177_KZN457.JPG.849b0435669a95e4bca51c906d43f874.JPG

 

A few shots from this hide.

 

Yellow-billed Stork

1103923662_KZN458.JPG.091354803a021fff62abede75e9e682c.JPG

 

African Spoonbill

134491076_KZN459.JPG.d8d4a5c66bb408ecfc121ac2d3f607e5.JPG

 

Cape Wagtail

584161276_KZN460.JPG.df063a6e13fb304e5a6121a9fdf13f18.JPG

 

White-faced Whistling Duck

1157466119_KZN461.JPG.acad7e71e53c25954702a66ae709bed5.JPG

 

Little Egret

1880267352_KZN462.JPG.497b00c917b3f9f700451aa87e117992.JPG

 

Whiskered Tern

1831297560_KZN463.JPG.4aa86ad2df26938f13c671d550fd02ef.JPG

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xelas

It was around 11:00 when we have left Zibulo. At midday we have stopped for a quick lunch, what more appropriate to eat then a burger with fries!

 

1669724959_KZN464.JPG.0fbdc4c8d64480e3ad9e788b785a2ab0.JPG

 

We have arrived at the inn still early to depart to the airport. Owner kindly allowed us to use one of the newly constructed rooms, by the pool. This time we have showered, and changed clothes, and while Zvezda was packing I’ve made myself useful by hanging near the pool.

 

Then to the airport, to drop the car (no unpleasant surprises there).  Home was waiting for us. Well, it has had to wait a day longer. As our flight originated in Angola, and it was delayed, enough for us to miss the connecting flight to Zagreb. Funny thing is that if we would be flying to Ljubljana, then we would be able to board this flight. No harm done, as Turkish gave us a free overnight and food vouchers and a chance to explore Istanbul for a day. But that is not part of this report.

 

To wrap it up, we have enjoyed also this visit to South Africa. New locations, and new scenery, and this time we have done it in a more relaxed way. The trip might not be as filled with great mammal sightings, however we have enjoyed it a lot.

 

 

Before THE END we would like to thank Peter Connan and his family for another great birding and excellent dinner and giving us the feeling of being almost part of their family. Thank You! We owe you. One day hopefully we will be able to host you in Slovenia.

 

 

            THE END

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pedro maia

Great trip Alex, and great photos as usual, South Africa has a lot to explore and KZN os a great destination, would mind returning and also going to new places like the Drakensberg.

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Wonderful report thanks @xelas. Driving on the wrong roads and Suburbs in Joburg is definitely quite frightening. Good to hear a couple of drinks and a "lekker" braai with @Peter Connan helped relax things for you guys. 

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Peter Connan

As always a great report full of usefull information and beautiful photos. Thanks for the kind words, it is always a pleasure hosting the Strazar family.

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xelas
7 hours ago, pedro maia said:

and also going to new places like the Drakensberg.

Thanks for following our journey, Pedro. Drakensberg area has much more to offer beside what we have seen in only 2 days, and it is a place I would like to return one day.

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xelas
7 hours ago, Hads said:

Good to hear a couple of drinks and a "lekker" braai with @Peter Connan helped relax things for you guys. 

Lekker it was, without any doubts! It is difficult to say if we were just overreacting, or not. Personally I feel much more at ease when I am driving outside of dense communities.

 

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xelas
3 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

As always a great report full of usefull information and beautiful photos.

Always a gentleman, Peter! It feels good; writing a trip report does take time, and since this one was seriously overdue, some details were lost in space (must be a Black Hole is starting to form inside my skull :lol:).

Note to myself: make notes on paper during the trip!

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Towlersonsafari

Very entertaining  report @xelas  as always!

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xelas
4 hours ago, Tdgraves said:

You had much better weather and BIF than we managed @xelas

At Zibulo? Indeed the weather was picture perfect :)!

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xelas
4 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

Very entertaining  report @xelas  as always!

 

I've tried my best, as always, and am happy to see you have been entertained :)

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Galago

Just caught up with your report and enjoyed it very much. Too many brilliant photos to mention, but the Amethyst Sunbird in flight is a particular cracker. I'm so impressed with your photography Zvezda and, Alex, your report writing is great. Teamwork!

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xelas
55 minutes ago, Galago said:

Teamwork!

Yes, teamwork when we travel, teamwork when we write trip reports. Worked well so far, hopefully we will continue the same for many years ahead :wub:.

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janzin

Just catching up with this report today as well! Fabulous photography as always, I don't know how Zvezda gets such vibrant colors out of the Nikons. And so many great birds...I've always wondered about Kwazulu Natal as I've heard its great for birding, now I want to go!

 

 

 

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TonyQ

Excellent report, really enjoyable.

Very engaging writing and superb photos.

Useful practical details for us as well.

Thank you for all the efforts that go into such a good report.

 

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Zubbie15

Thanks for sharing @xelas, a very informative and enjoyable report with lots of great pictures. 

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xelas
2 hours ago, janzin said:

I don't know how Zvezda gets such vibrant colors out of the Nikons.

Me neither -_-. Thanks for you words, Janet, as support by a fellow female photographer means a lot!

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xelas
1 hour ago, TonyQ said:

Thank you for all the efforts that go into such a good report.

 

I should apologise for doing it so late, but in past months, I have been distracted, by birding and by other things. 

I am so happy to see that our trip reports are useful also to well traveled readers!

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xelas
30 minutes ago, Zubbie15 said:

Thanks for sharing @xelas,

My, or better, our pleasure! 

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offshorebirder

Thanks for this trip report @xelas - I am just catching back up.

 

Thanks for all the information and  details, that helps people like me who will be planning  a S. Africa trip in a couple of years.

 

 

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xelas
16 minutes ago, offshorebirder said:

Thanks for all the information and  details, that helps people like me who will be planning  a S. Africa trip in a couple of years.

 

Not all, I am sure there might be many more ... if I would remember them :wacko:

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Dave Williams

Most enjoyable and informative read Alex. Shame it wasn't posted a few months earlier before I booked mine but there's always next time!

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