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South Africa AUG 2010: Ngala; Exeter and Phinda, then CPT


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Thought I'd share this trip report from my latest trip to Africa..my dad and I have been to Africa a number of times and I had held up my nose a bit at what I had heard about South Africa---"too commercial, like Lion Country Safari with tarred roads, etc"...and so on...after having been, I can say that my impressions were totally wrong. South Africa is an amazing place for safaris and I'd go back in a heartbeat. One thing is for sure, it is Big Five country!! I'm a rhino nut and it is one of the Big Five that South Africa has in abundance more than anywhere else we've been.


Here's the itinerary:


Ngala Tented Camp: 3 nights

Exeter River Camp: 4 nights

Phinda Game Reserve: 2 nights Vlei Lodge and 2 nights Rock Lodge

Cape Town: 5 nights


And some highlights:

Ngala: As we were watching a female leopard patrol her territory, a tank of a rhino bumbled across her path---needless to say the scent panicked the rhino and he charged after her---she seemed not too concerned but did get a move on; We saw some great hyena den action in first light as a large female waited for the pack to return from hunting, she guarded the den as the pups awoke one by one emerging from the den; We came across two pairs of mating lions on consecutive days---fascinating to watch the mating behavior; Also came a cross an enormous herd of Cape Buffalo as they emerged from the bush to drink at a waterhole---it was chaos! Likely as many as 300-500 buffs is a lot of action! We missed out on Wild Dogs which had been regularly seen hunting on the concession---they had a denning site just inside Kruger---the full moon might have changed some of their hunting habits was the speculation. We saw all the Big Five and much more but certainly had to work for it.


Exeter River: This place was a gold mine for wildlife and especially leopards! We observed no less than eight different leopards during our stay and they are about as interesting to watch as any of the cats. A mother and two cubs sharing a bushbuck kill high in a tree---we also got some great "play time" as the cubs honed their skills in the tall grass along a dry river bed where their mother had stashed them as she went out to hunt...we followed one of the dominant males as he patrolled his turf, another young male as he set out to hunt in the early evening; found a female with a kill in a tree as she called out to find a mate; and perhaps the most interesting scene of all: a bull giraffe that had been taken down by a HUGE male leopard!! The speculation was that the giraffe had somehow fallen down but the carcasss showed the tell tale signs along the neck where the leopard had finished him off...ordinarily you wouldn't suspect a leopard could do this but this dominant male was so much larger than any other we'd seen, you'd believe it if you saw him!


That scene played out over a couple days---when it was fresh, the large male lay belly full nearby---intriguing that a smaller male turned up and fed on the carcass as well---for some reason the large male tolerated this but there was tension in the air for sure! By the next morning, hyenas were having a turn---the carcass steamed in the cold air and the nervous whelps and whoops of the hyenas indicated their nerves with good reason---the roar of a male lion indicated that perhaps the kill had been noticed by him as well...when we came back the next day, however, there were as many as a dozen hyenas around, still nervous, but ripping and tearing and crunching at the carcass...gruesome, but fascinating. A jackal waited its turn and the hyenas were "pasting" the area with a strong scent claiming the carcass as their own and warning off other packs that might get any ideas...


An elephant in camp provided even more excitement as he just wasn't going to be told where he should be or not be...clapping, spraying some water and even a ping pong like gun didn't dissuade him for long...the most excitement came as we had to evacuate the lunch tables and run for cover as he interrupted the lunch hour. In the evening, one side of camp couldn't come to the lodge as a leopard was strolling about and the other side was sequestered due to some Cape Buffs lingering around...that kind of excitement is always fun, long as nobody gets hurt.


There was some drama as a female ellie in a breeding herd was spotted with a snare about her foot. Too dangerous for us to tag along, we could still hear the rescue operation, the trumpeting, the sirens, as a team of rangers went out and darted her to remove the snare...a copter flew over head to keep tabs on her, playing a siren loudly to try and keep the rest of the herd from storming in to assist her. Our ranger said it was heart wrending as the calf of course did not understand and was terrified to see its mother down....but five minutes later after the antidote was administered, terror turned to joy as the female elephant got to her feet, crossed her back legs, felt that the snare was gone and with a "oh, that's what that was all about..." began to feed calmly on the spot.


Coming across a busy bull rhino marking its territory was also pretty cool to me...it struck me how BUSY wild animals are....marking territory, establishing some mating, feeding pecking order, mating, finding food and water...they aren't just laying about like at a zoo by any means...the guides were fantastic at sharing the personal history of the animals which gave you a great idea of their lives---quite the soap opera as coalitions of males enter a territory to take over and earn the right to mate...these stories were especially interesting regarding the lion prides and leopard interactions...again we whiffed on wild dogs which are also a possibility here but their den was on a neighboring private concession and we were unsuccesful finding any activity as they frequently came into the area using the boundary fence as a hunting aid...hey, that's why they're wild animals...no guarantees and we weren't complaining!


Phinda: I enjoyed the change of scenery, the lodges/accomodations were pretty outstanding and it's true that the reserve is great for cheetah and rhino (white and black)...I heard some of the guests complaining about a lack of game but we took part in all the activities and really enjoyed ourselves. The Flight of the Fish Eagle took us over the St Lucia Wetlands, up to Lake Sibiya, over the giant dunes along the Indian Ocean and out over the beautiful waters...we spotted hippos and other game from the air, especially cool was spotting three whale sharks and about eight pods of humpback whales (15+ individuals including their calves)---it's a view from a good bit up but still was great to see. We also fished out on the ocean and caught some yellowfin tuna which the chef at Rock Lodge gladly served up as sashimi and seared in a variety of ways that evening. We visited the zulu community and learned a bit of their lives there and were going to go on a black rhino walk but we had such a long, productive sighting of a mother and older calf in the evening game drive we didn't end up doing the walk our last morning.


Our last days were in beautful Cape Town. Exploring the winelands which are as sophisticated and beautiful wineries as anywhere in the world, driving to Cape Point along some of the most spectacular coastline anywhere as well. And eating good food---it really has it all. We also, did the Great White Shark trip out of Simon's Town which is the place to go out if you want to witness the "predations" where they sometimes breach the surface hunting cape fur seals---it was a bit windy and rough on our scheduled day and while we didn't see the natural predations like we had on a previous trip, we got two pretty awesome breaches towing a decoy behind the boat...our last trip it was the opposite...many natural predation and no action on the decoy. I got some crude video and have a couple video captures which I included in my pics. All in all, just a fantastic trip---beyond my expectations and I'd do it just like that all over again. We used Eyes on Africa to book our trip and stayed at &Beyond properties throughout our stay and at Abbey Manor in CPT---well run with VERY helpful ladies that gave great advice re: activities, food and wineries...a spectacular location and views under Table Mountain...high marks all around....as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so I hope you enjoy mine (PS you dont have to be a facebook member to view these I'm told):


Ngala Tented Camp:




Exeter River:








CPT and environs:



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Here are some video from the trip as well---sometimes a moving pic is better although it's hard to do both---some of these are sotr of shaky but it's from the vidfeo feature on my camera:


Shark breaches off Simonstown:




Leopard cub and bushbuck kill:



White Rhino chasing off a leopard that startled it (bumpy as we were on the move to see all this):



Mating lions:



Hyenas on a giraffe kill:




Black Rhinos at Phinda:




Trying to get an Elephant out of camp at Exeter River:



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Okay, done some editing. Can see I need to do a sticky thread about embedding Youtube videos. However, two of the video links were the same... Have a quick look and give me the right link for:

White Rhino chasing off a leopard that startled it (bumpy as we were on the move to see all this):


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Thanks for this great report and sharing the films!


The private reserves adjacent to Kruger are hard to beat on big5 sightings, good to hear you enjoyed it.

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Here's the White Rhino chasing off the leopard---sorry bout that---you only get a glimpse of the leopard as the land rover was moving and very hard to hold steady....wow---thks for the edit---would love to know how you did that : )


Edited by Game Warden
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wow---thks for the edit---would love to know how you did that : )

Hmnn looking at your post count gatoratlarge, don't think you're ready for the Safaritalk handshake just yet ;)


Joking aside, some great videos from a great sounding trip: having the videos to watch gives the report an extra edge. Thanks for taking the time to do them. And don't worry, I'll prepare a Youtube video embedd how to, if there's not already one...

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Thanks for the report and the added interest of the videos which I've never mastered myself. One day.


Sounds like a great trip (aren't they all!).


I think the youtube sticky is a good idea Game Warden, I think videos will become a more popular way of illustrating trip reports for the younger members of ST. Perhaps not for me, unless I can get my act together. ;)

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