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Our swansong safari and great to share with a first timer.


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Just back from our 6th and final safari and what a great trip it was. @Brieth joined us and had amazing sightings including lots of elephant herds which she really wanted to see. She will add some of her wonderful photos to this trip report.

Our itinerary was:

24th May Fly from our home town of New Plymouth to Auckland and on to Sydney where we spent a night to break the long journey. Then Sydney to Johannesburg, a night in the City Lodge hotel OR Tambo then next day fly to Hoedspruit where we were picked up by Sable tours and transferred to Manyeleti Game Reserve for 6 nights.

1st June we transferred to Timbavati Reserve for 6 nights flying home on the 7th June.

As we had a number of rhino sightings during our trip including some that were dehorned and some not, I will not be detailing the camps we stayed at but am happy to provide details to any member that would like to pm me.

Our sightings were superb and we had an awesome guide at Manyeleti and great guide and tracker at Timbavati.

Here are a few photos to start and the trip report will follow once I have had a decent nights sleep and get over the jetlag!


Leopard on first drive



Lions at kill



Male Leopard



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~ @KiwiGran:


Those images are so close...and clear.


Terrific sightings!


What a change from New Plymouth!


      Tom K.

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You are so right Tom a huge change from New Plymouth

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Sad that this is your swansong, but glad it was a great final trip.  Looking forward to your sightings.

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It is sad, but you have some amazing memories and photographs to keep you going.

And you can continue to get vicarious pleasure with us here on ST reading all the TRs. 

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A great start, I’m looking forward to the full report.🙂

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Thanks @Wildog. I will definitely still be following SafariTalk. I have really appreciated the opportunity to share trip reports and read about so many wonderful safaris others have experienced. A big thank you to Matt and all the moderators.

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Day 1 26th May

Flew to Hoedspruit and our transfer driver was there to meet us. Through the gate to Manyeleti and we soon started seeing animals. The best was when a small breeding herd of elephants crossed the road in front of us and we stopped and enjoyed the sighting – Beths first wild elephants in Africa, what a great start.

We arrived at the camp in time to have lunch and soon after were off on our first game drive. A distant elephant bull but our guide Beckson was intent on trying to find lions that the owner of the camp had seen on the road that morning. So good to be back on safari and great that we were the only guests so had plenty of room and were able to converse with our guide. No luck with the lions but as we came to a crossroad a beautiful female leopard came out on the road. What a sighting for Beth on her first drive. The leopard was Kara, a leopard that is seen on Wild Earth live safaris. We followed her down the road for some way then suddenly she crouched and went into hunt mode. She had spotted a duiker. We kept a distance but were able to follow her for some time, sometimes losing sight of her then picking it up again. After some time it appeared she had lost the duiker when suddenly she pounced and there was a lot of squealing and as we went round we saw her carrying the kill which turned out to be a scrub hare. She carried it up on to a fallen tree trunk, then went down into the grass and started eating. Fabulous sighting for nearly an hour.






 Spotlight on the way back yielded grey duiker, steenbok, flap neck chameleon and absolutely best of all a porcupine! I was rapt as have only seen them previously at Marrick Farm in the Kimberley. This was a big one and we had good vision of him in the grass, could see him clearly but he wasn’t keen on hanging around. A great start on our first drive and we were all very impressed with our guide.


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~ @KiwiGran:


My jaw dropped when reading the description of your first game drive.


A female leopard. a grey duiker, a steenbok, a flap-neck chameleon...and a Porcupine!


Lucky Beth.


What an auspicious beginning to your safari.


Thank you so much for explaining this.


      Tom K.

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Day 2  27th May

Sightings of grey duiker, steenbok, hippos at a dam, 3 male elephants and a nice herd of wildebeest, all females with several young ones and the male on his own further away. A sad sighting of a zebra with a broken leg and horrendously deep cut – looked like a lion attack.


Then headed to an area where there was a dead elephant, it had died 2 weeks before but there was still activity at the site – several hyena, white backed vultures and best of all 2 jackal, one a black backed and the other a side striped. Neat to see them together and see the differences. The side striped was a bit bigger and more grey whereas the black backed more tan coloured and finer build.






Black backed jackal



Side striped jackal



The jackals would dive in and grab a bit before either the hyenas or vultures chased them away.


Another hyena on the track as we left and we found out later this was a hyena that frequents the camp.



We continued on and found a lovely Crested Barbet, the light being right to show the lovely colours.




Our guide Beckson had been told there was a buffalo herd in the area and he soon found them, quite a large herd. The hope was that the lions might be following them.




Afternoon drive:

Lovely sighting of a bull elephant up really close and a dugga boy

A nice view of a Burchells Coucal. 



3 giraffe nice and close.



We were heading to a sighting of lions when we were called in to a cheetah sighting – wow Beth was really seeing lots on only her 3rd drive. A wonderful time with the cheetah, following along as he walked through the grass, he marked a tree then posed for us on a slight mound before continuing on his way.





By now it was starting to get dark but we found the lions, still lying flat even though it was dark.


On the way home using the spotlight saw Bush Baby, hippo out of the water and a quick sighting of a female rhino and calf.

The quality of my photos is not great, my little point and shoot camera is nearing the end of its days, but it will give members an idea of our sightings.

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   I've not been to Hoedspruit, but it has special memories for me. Firstly, a phone call to there to get information for a magazine article about the first group of cheetahs to be sent to South Australia's Monarto Safari Park nearly 25 years ago. Then, one of those Hoedspruit cheetahs licked my hand while I was taking photos of them before they went on public display 🙂.

   Some years later, we communicated with the first operators of Botswana's Selinda Reserve, the Grahams,  when they retired to Hoedspruit.  Before we went to Zambia in 2008, we spent a few days at nearby Hazyview, Blyde River canyon, and Pilgrim's Rest, but were unable to add Hoedspruit to the itinerary.

Edited by John M.
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Hoedspruit is an interesting place. The airstrip is massively long - it was a wartime airforce base and the civil airport terminal, known as the Eastgate Airport, was established at the southern end of the airfield in the early 1990s. Quite a quaint terminal when we first used to go through there - the luggage was put on trolleys and taken around to where passengers could collect their luggage off the trolley. Recently upgraded and now has a roof over an area where the luggage is taken to and taken off by hand to give to passengers. Lots of safari vehicles, transfer vehicles waiting to take the visitors to their safari. The terminal has a nice outdoor waiting area before you go through security and we spent a long time there on our way home. When we checked in we were informed the plane would be late but noone could tell us when it would arrive. We finally went through security over an hour after the flight was due to leave but still no information as to when we would fly. While waiting in the terminal we were greeted by a man who said he recognised our black NZ passports - he was a Kiwi but had been living in Australia for a number of years. On asking where in NZ he came from we were astounded when he said Inglewood - a small town just a few kilometers from where we live! We were getting stressed at the thought of having to rush to get to our flight to Australia and asked him if he was familiar with Johannesburg airport - he certainly was as flew through there often on business. Just follow me he said and we did just that and were super grateful to him as it took ages to get through security but we made it to the plane comfortably.


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I am trying to post a video - it is in the format MOV and I get the message that it isnt an accepted file type but I know I have posted videos in the past (in my 2018 report). Do I have to publish it on U Tube and then link it in? Any help appreciated

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I have found that if I post on YouTube and then paste the link here then it works

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Hi @KiwiGran, thanks for your "final" trip report, looks like you had wonderful sightings.

Hopefully you find a way for a swan song safari :) 

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A quick video of Kara from Beth

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Thanks for your comments @Atravelynn, @michael-ibk, @Hads


Day 3  28th May

This morning was very foggy and we all ended up quite wet. But the spider webs were just beautiful with the fog on them – so many different types. We stopped at a dam, what a lovely scene in the fog. A hippo came towards us and we all hoped he would come out of the water but he instead retreated. Saw Wahlbergs Eagle, tawny eagle and Bataleur. (Can someone help me with identification here please. I think this is a Wahlbergs.)






Back to the elephant carcass, a hooded vulture there today.


Then a highlight, 2 male rhino – a good sighting of them, being quite relaxed. Sad to see them dehorned, a very controversial subject but the decisions have been made to try and protect the rhinos from poaching. We were to hear various opinions over the course of our stay both at Manyeleti and at Timbavati. The dehorning at Manyeleti was done in 2019 so their horns have grown a bit since then. They were also microchipped at that time.





Warthog, impala and wildebeest, male and female Kudu. A lilac breasted roller in a tree, great using Beth’s binoculars to get a really close up view of the gorgeous colours and the lovely tail feathers.





First to the dam. There were terrapins on a log and they just fell off into the water. A crocodile on the bank.


Then one of the highlights of the trip. Coming down the road we could see the big buffalo herd grazing over a wide area. Beckson had been told there were lions following them but where were they? We went offroad and soon found them. First a big male sitting relaxed in the grass. Further in there was a lioness in the grass, another one over there, a sub adult male,  lioness in a real hunting stance up on a mound, eyes firmly on the buffalo. At that stage we counted 9 lions all just sitting in the grass or on the mound, spaced out from each other. The thought came to me that surely we would interfere with the hunt but no, the lions knew we were there, glanced up at us occasionally but otherwise totally ignored us.



Lion in the grass




Lionesses on a mound






After a while one lioness got up and walked around the back of the mound. Then other lions began to join her. Like the lions we moved too and it was like being part of the pride! At one stage 9 or 10 of the lions got together in a group and it was such fun to watch them pouncing on each other, rubbing heads and flopping down together – all part of the bonding of the pride.  As they moved off they came so close to the vehicle we could have reached down and touched them, magnificent huge lionesses in peak condition.


Suddenly a massive buffalo bull came out of the herd at tremendous speed. He must have spotted one of the lionesses and chased her. We continued watching the action as it got darker, by this stage we reckoned there were at least 12 or 13 lions. Realising the hunt would go well into the night we reluctantly decided to head back to camp. How would Beckson find his way back to the road? No trouble, his driving skills and knowledge of where he is were incredible.


But there was to be one more twist to the tale. As we drove, there on the road were lions and more were coming out on the road and crossing the road back into the grass on the other side. We then realised the buffalo had also shifted and the lions were tracking them. Once all the lions had crossed Beckson went off road again and found the lions – last seen 9 or 10 of them sitting on a mound watching the buffalo. What an amazing experience.








Edited by KiwiGran
forgot to post a photo
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Day 4 29th May

Off to see what happened last night with the lions but the call came in “No luck” – they hadn’t made a kill. Beckson saw lion spoor on the road so went in a track and he soon found 3 lioness. One older and paler the other two a rich tawny colour. One had a broken end to her tail.


Off again and spotted more lions well off the road then a big male walking on the road. Followed him for a while then went in front of him. He roared and marked shrubs along the way, not a full roar but impressive still. Sat down on the road to give more photo opportunities then resumed his walk. A fabulous sighting.








Then we got a call for a leopard and we drove almost to the Manyeleti gate. Into the sighting and there was an almost eaten impala up the tree but where was the leopard? Another guide told Beckson the direction she had gone so we went bush bashing and sure enough Beckson found her. She got up and moved away, confronted a small hyena and then sat down again in the grass. A young female, really gorgeous.


As we came out of the block on to the road we spotted a troop of baboons coming over the rise towards us. While they didn’t get really close Beth was able to view them through her binoculars. That was the only sighting we had of baboons on this trip. Our best sightings in the past have been at Kruger both on the road and at Sunset dam.

Driving back we had a call for a rhino and we found him – a huge big male. He had been in a fight and had blood on his face. Beckson said he could be 40 to 50years old.




Driving again and into a sighting of another pride of lions – 3 big males, several sub adult males and the females all sitting in the shade – another great sighting.





On our way back Beckson saw a pearl spotted owlet, a bird I really wanted to see this time but it flew off before I could see it.



A quiet drive this time – still just the 3 of us. We saw Elephant, buffalo, wildebeest herd and general game. Late in the drive we found the lion pride again, all just lying around. We did a loop around and spotted a herd of wildebeest quite close to the lions. Maybe they would hunt later.





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Day 5   30th May

Another fantastic morning. We set off from camp and stopped at a dam to see if the hippo was there. No sign of him. We watched a jacana on the water lily pads. Just as we set off again a large bird flew out of the tree above us and Beckson said “Owl” We saw where he landed and it was a Giant Eagle Owl, so good to see.




Set off again and saw an elephant, a female and her 2 to 3 year old calf. Further on another elephant and this time it was a breeding herd. This is what Beth really wanted to see. They were drinking at a waterhole and there were calves of all ages from a tiny one estimated at 2 months and several at under a year. Such a special sighting which were able to stay at for ages. Once they had their fill of water they started grazing, incredible to see their dexterous trunks, to see them selecting just the particular leaves, shrubs or grass they wanted. Fun to see the little ones trying to use their trunks, often looking as if they were frustrated that the trunk wouldn’t work the way they wanted. Such a special sighting, we never tire of watching elephants.




Moving on we spotted a bird fly into a tree, it was a Dark Chanting Goshawk, we saw quite a number of them during the trip




At the side of the road we spotted 2 hyena looking very unhappy.  They were a mother and cub and apparently both had been snared and though the snares had been removed they had horrific injuries round their necks.


Next we spotted giraffe, at least 5 but probably more that we couldn’t see, a young male and several females.




Then a lovely mixed group of impala, zebra, wildebeest and waterbuck.




Beckson then said we were going back to the lions we saw last night as they had made a kill. As we were driving in to the sighting we spotted a Secretary bird, I really enjoy seeing them but this one was quite shy so didn’t get a good sighting but managed a poor photo




Then in to the kill and they had killed a buffalo. 12 lions, all very full, some lying around including the big male we had seen on the road – he is called the Red Road male.  Also the broken tail female so we knew the 3 lions we had seen had joined up with the rest of the pride – the Naru pride. Awesome to see the power of the lions feeding and to witness and hear the squabbles and growls.





 Beckson was surprised at how little of the carcass they had eaten and speculated that after we saw them last night they had killed a wildebeest so weren’t that hungry when they made the buffalo kill. On our way out of the sighting he stopped and showed us a patch of paunch content and all that was left was a wildebeest tail – his speculation was spot on!



A sighting of note were 2 ostrich – we have never seen them in this area before. 2 females, fascinating to see the speed they can run at. At one stage a hyena headed towards them but he soon changed his path when challenged by the Ostrich.




The weather had been quite different to other times we had been to Manyeleti – a lot of cloud and even some occasional drizzle but this day was nice and hot again and for the first time we saw Dwarf mongoose out. They are so cute to watch.












Edited by KiwiGran
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Day 6 31st May

By now we had other guests on the vehicle and were having a lot of fun. Saw an egret at the dam





Elephants from the road, one with the tiniest baby no more than 3 weeks old.

Then back to the lions and the carcass. As we drove in we found the lions starting to leave – first the Red Road male then some females, they all proceeded to flop down in the shade. Broken tail was missing and we could only count 7 so 5 were missing.



Then we went to the carcass, only the rib cage and head left but the clean up crew was hard at work. Lots of vultures (white back and hooded) 11 hyena and a black backed jackal.





First up a group of 7 warthog running all in a line – very cute. A small herd of buffalo and a nice sighting of several giraffe. Beckson was looking for a lion that we had heard roaring, we found a lone young male sitting in the grass but he didn’t think that was the one that we had heard.




Stopped for drinks then off again looking for the Kruger male lion. Then a great sighting – a massive bull elephant, the biggest we had seen. He was hidden by bushes at first but we sat quietly and he slowly revealed himself and came closer. He went up to a Torchwood tree, placed his trunk up the tree and his tusks either side and gave the tree a gentle shake. We watched as he searched for the fruit in the grass with such a delicate touch. Awe inspiring viewing.




Off again and this time found the Kruger male – a big lion with an impressive black mane. We followed him along the road using the spotlight. At one stage he flopped down on the road and rolled and rolled this way and that. Once he moved on Beckson identified it as buffalo dung. He was using it to disguise his own scent. Fascinating to watch. As he went on he would mark and spray the bushes regularly and then move on with purpose. We finally left him still walking down the road.

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Day 7 1st June

Gorgeous sunrise this morning



Vultures in a dead tree – looked like a sculpture



A lovely Nyala male – superb colouring




Stopped for a giraffe but I was more interested in the Black Shouldered kite on the other side of the road!




Next a great sighting, 3 rhino an adult female, an adult male and a smaller male. All dehorned, nice and quiet and we were able to watch them for some time, just quietly grazing.




Then off to find lions that Beckson had been told about – the Talamati breakaway pride which we found close to the boundary with Sabi Sands. Just doing what lions do –lying around. 2 females and 5 or 6 cubs. One female looked very unwell with quite raspy breathing, hope it wasnt due to TB.



Back to the camp for breakfast and pack up ready for our transfer. We had a wonderful time at Manyeleti, awesome sightings, a superb guide, very well looked after at camp (our only complaint was that we were fed too well and had to ask for smaller portions!) The camp was unfenced and we had elephant, hyena, tree squirrels and dwarf mongoose in camp and from the camp we saw elephant, giraffe, zebra and a saddle billed stork. One day the elephants were grazing right beside the entrance of the camp and we were able to watch them from outside the dining room, keeping close to the building and very quiet so we didn’t disturb them. They were super relaxed and it was awesome to be on foot so close to them.



Elephant by Beths tent




On our way out we saw 2 Southern Ground Hornbills and the hippos at the dam were out sunbathing.


Arrived at our camp in the Timbavati Game reserve and had lunch and off on the game drive at 3.30pm. This time we had guide Ruben and tracker, Oxide. A few sighting of general game and then we found a pride of lions – 18 in the pride including 7 lioness and 11 cubs (4 sub adult males). Watched them for ages then off again to see a beautiful sunset. Later went back to the lions who had moved off but they were located again and we followed them for sometime





Edited by KiwiGran
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Day 8 2nd June

First sighting was 3 Southern Ground Hornbills in a dead tree, a really great sighting as they were calling to each other. First one would boom, then the next on and so on – fascinating to watch and listen to.






Stopped at a dam for hippos and we could still hear the Hornbills booming, the sound carries such a long way. Saw zebra, then a lovely breeding herd of elephants. Some really little ones, one with the black hairs still on its neck. A really super sighting



Next a hyena walking along the road, then off road to a female leopard lying in the grass. She had killed a civet 2 days previously and the civet must have bitten her on the foot. She was obviously still in some pain but we heard the next day she had been seen up the tree finishing off her kill so hopefully she would be OK.


Lastly a massive elephant bull in musth. We had seen him on the road some distance away and he seemed to not be moving, just standing there with his trunk touching the ground. When we got closer Ruben explained he was sleeping standing up. We could see he was in musth so went off road and around so as not to disturb him too much but he did give us quite a shake of the head and advanced towards us. A great sighting.





First up a lovely sighting of a dwarf mongoose colony in a termite mound. Initially they all ran away but we sat quietly and slowly they came out and were running around and interacting on a log.  Ruben explained that they work as a team, one group will engage the attention of a snake at the front and another group will whip in and bite it on the spine.
Further on our tracker spotted a puff adder. It took me a while to see it but then it glided off into the grass and we could see it clearly. Only a small one but long and nicely marked. Earlier on we had seen another snake which Ruben identified as a Striped Herald snake. And on a later drive we again saw a puff adder in the spotlight and this time Beth got a good photo.




Next a brown Snake Eagle





Then to the hippos and what a show they put on for us. About 5 hippos, lots of yawns and grunts then a big male rolled around in the water ending up on his back with his all four feet in the air – hilarious to see! I didnt get a photo of the roll but Beth got a great video.




At last I have seen a Pearl Spotted owlet, just a quick sighting but a very clear view. Later in the trip we had one in the tree above where we were having tea round the boma and I got a really good look at that one and the call he gave was so close and quite piercing.

After drinks we set off spotlighting and got a good view of a couple of hippo out of the water.

Then a great view of a bush baby. We could see it in the tree moving around, came out on to a branch then took a massive leap onto a branch in a tree on the other side of the road. Just an amazing leap.

Several chameleon, one sighting in particular was very special. The chameleon was very low down on a bush so we were able to get off the vehicle and get a really good look at it. Just beautiful. 



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Here is the photo Beth took of the Chameleon


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