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Balule and Kruger on a budget and a week in Tofo Mozambique


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.. Until Meneth uttered the words, "there are the Wild Dogs". I couldn't believe our luck! Before we left that morning Pieter had said he hoped we would see the big five, to which I replied that I would happily trade the big five for a sighting of wild dogs. We'll I got my wish! I didn't have to trade all of the big five either (well, maybe leopard!).


There was an elevated bank along the road at this point and an adult dog was standing on this bank.



PA114641 African Wild Dog (Painted Dog) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Close to her were four younger pups. Probably about 5 to 6 months old. They were playing around the female who then nipped at one of the pups. Then they made their way down onto the road and were running around in front of the vehicle.



PA114645 African Wild Dog (Painted Dog) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA114646 African Wild Dog (Painted Dog) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA114647 African Wild Dogs (Painted Dogs) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


I was so excited! My heart was in my throat. Wild Dogs range very widely in Kruger Park, so a sighting like this is very precious. We spent a lot longer in the park last year and I didn't see dogs then, nor on my other two safaris. So I was overjoyed to finally see them. :D :D :D We had literally minutes to enjoy them before Meneth insisted that we move on, we were already late for the gate. But what a sighting to end the day!

Edited by kittykat23uk
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We dropped the others off at Mark's Treehouse lodge, so I was the only guest to arrive back at Tremisana. The small bar area was quite crowded compared to previous nights as numbers had swelled due to a couple of new groups having arrived. I was naturally rather buoyed by my sighting of dogs and excitedly told Pretty about my day. I did notice that people that had arrived as a group didn't seem too happy. It turned out that the tour company had hired a new driver who supposedly knew his way around Joahnnesburg, but had got completely lost when trying to pick these guests up. They had subsequently arrived too late to enjoy the sunset drive and so Pretty was trying to placate them by giving them an early dinner and offering a shorter night drive instead.

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Wow Kittykat! Lion cubs, Jackal, wild dogs... Not bad at all, given the fact that most drives were in Kruger (non-offroad)!


I particularly love the ground hornbill displaying. I'd love to see that one day.

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Thanks Jochen, yes a good day in Kruger and not too shabby for a budget safari experience. :D

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Keep it coming, KittyKat! I'm very curious as to what animals you saw in Balule.


If I look at the map, then what you say sounds logical. Certainly if you look at the area on a map, from east to west:


- Timbavati: to me, game viewing in Timbavati was pretty much idem as in Sabi Sands.

- Klaserie, east: a bit further away, in Klaserie, the prices drop, but so do game numbers. Not that much though, but to give an example; you have to work a bit harder for a good leopard sighting. Things are improving slowly; a bit more lodges, animals getting more used to tourists and their vehicles, etc... What also helps is huge traversing rights (since recently the AOF/nThambo/GomoGomo concessions hooked up with another cluster of camps further north (Senalala etc).

- Klaserie, west: if you go further away from Kruger NP, then prices seem to be equal, or even drop a bit further. I assume that area has about the same game numbers, as the camps sit on the Klaserie river, and water is life.

- Balule: I assume game numbers drop again (or rather; the numbers of iconic species such as elephant and leopard).


But what I wonder is; is the situation not a bit better for the Balule lodges that sit near Olifants River?



Bottom line of all this; it's a similar situation as DikDik described in his trip report (Ndumo, Tembe, Bayete Zulu, ...): the area is improving, with more and more lodges coming, and more and more hunting concessions or farming concessions turning to ecotourism. And slowly the animals are coming back.






GOOD to hear about Klaserie about exchanging traversing rights I really like african on foort and nthambo and I am returing in july 2012


as regards Balule lodge I am glad I gave the drifers lodge with the guaranteed high game viewing promoted on their site.

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kitty how good is the game viewing at Tshukudu ? woulld you recommend it as a good place to go to ?

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drifers lodge with the guaranteed high game viewing promoted on their site.


Yeah but gotta watch out with that. So do all lodge sites.


(this is not specifically aimed at Drifters)

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drifers lodge with the guaranteed high game viewing promoted on their site.


Yeah but gotta watch out with that. So do all lodge sites.


(this is not specifically aimed at Drifters)





so the more honest way on promotion is to mention prospects of seeing animals rather than promising sitings to potential visitors

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Hi Cosmic,


I only had one sunset drive at Tshukudu, so that is hardly enough to base an opinion on. I go a lifer in the form of the genet though! As they have rehabilitated animals apparently they offer walks with cubs in the morning (assuming they have cubs at the time). We didn't see much of that aspect of their work, only the cheetahs and a hippo in a pen on the way in. The lodge and pool seemed more luxurious than Tremisana. There were people petting the cheetahs whilst relaxing round the pool. To be honest it all felt a little bizarre. There are no fences so animals can wander into camp. At tremisana there is an electric fence round the lodge.


I was assured the lion we saw was a wild one who had made his way in from Kruger. The rhinos were reintroduced. The game density seemed roughly on a par with Balule. As an aside at Mark's treehous camp there are Nyala grazing in the area, but we didn't see them in Balule or in Tshukudu.


I think these areas would do well to promote the more budget aspect of the trips rather than selling them as big five safaris. If you read the reviews on trip adviser, people do see the big five occasionally but certainly not as often as in Sabi Sand and also this would be split between Kruger and Balule/Tshukudu/Moholoholo.

Edited by kittykat23uk
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Also, just to add, I have not been to any other areas in Greater Kruger so can only compare this to Elephant Plains. I would recommend this trip for people like me, single travellers, who don't want to hire a car and are working on a tight budget. Ideally, I would like to have travelled with a friend or family and stayed in the park. That would have been more cost-effective. I'm not sure if there are any options to do a similar guided trip including transfers staying close to Orpen Gate, but that would be ideal. However, I expect the cost would increase significantly.

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Wow Kittykat! Lion cubs, Jackal, wild dogs... Not bad at all, given the fact that most drives were in Kruger (non-offroad)!


I particularly love the ground hornbill displaying. I'd love to see that one day.


Ditto - So pleased that you had a blast and such good sightings.

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12th October - Kruger Park with Meneth



Another early start but the game drive wasn't for a while so I spent some more time trying to photograph the birds.



P1470049 White-bellied Sunbird by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



P1470068 Dark-capped Bulbul by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We were in the park by 9.30 ish. The vehicle was busier again today with three to a row. As my luck would have it, all the good sightings seemed to be on the other side of the vehicle to where I was sat. The first sighting of the day was and we first saw Kudu, then giraffe and warthog by the kingfisherspruit no entry sign. We then took the S106 loop again and stopped for this Southern Ground Hornbill perched in a tree.



PA124661 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Southern Ground hornbills are endangered, Meneth told us this was partly due to a lack of breeding sites caused by elephants who knock down more trees now that their range is restricted. There are many other reasons that contribute to the decline in ground hornbills, these include, loss of over 70% of their habitat,due to farming/agriculture and cattle, Indirect poisoning, Indirect trapping and snaring, Shooting for window breaking, the trade in exotic birds, Increase in Ancient cultural uses and Electrocution on power transformer boxes. There is a project to hand rear second clutch chicks with a view to reintroducing them in the wild. Details can be found here: http://www.mabulagroundhornbillconservationproject.org.za/index_files/TheProject.html


We then came across the place where the elephants were sleeping the previous day. This time they were digging for water.



PA124668 Elephant digging for water by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Edited by kittykat23uk
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Meneth told us that Elephants have a lifespan of around 65 years. They grow a new set of molars every decade. After about 60 years, they are on their last set, so as these slowly grid down they become less and less able to chew their food. So they derive less nutrition from their diet. At this age they tend to favour riverine areas where the food is more plentiful and easier to chew. So when they die they tend to die in the same areas. This is where the myth of elephant graveyards supposedly comes from.


There is an area where the road is higher than the surrounding land and it provided an interesting view of some browsing giraffes:



PA124682 Giraffe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


A Lilac breasted roller perched on a bush.



PA124688 Lilac-breasted Roller by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We passed more giraffe and zebra and a big herd of impala. Then a lone bull elephant. We joined the H-7 towards Satara. A White-backed vulture was perched in a tree, but we couldn't see a kill that might have attracted it's attention and the light was getting quite harsh.



PA124696 White-backed Vulture by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124699 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We passed three waterbuck, then headed to Girivana waterhole on the S12. There we saw more elephants. Then we turned onto the S40 towards Satara and joined the H-7 again. At Nsemani dam we stopped for hippos and then a fish egale flew in intent on attacking some cattle egrets. Vocalising his displeasure at the egrets with a loud "Kyow-kow-kow!," he flew back to his perch in a copse of trees behind the waterhole.


After that, it was time for lunch so we headed over to Satara. After waiting ages before our ourder was even taken, I popped to the shop while I waited for food to arrive. Last time I came to Kruger I spotted a cuddly wild dog toy that I wanted to buy. But I was only going to get it if we saw dogs. So I didn't buy it last time. But since we had dogs in the bag, it was time to get my souvenir! :D



PA124720 Burchell's starling by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


The Monkeys must have been elsewhere that day as we didn't see many.

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After lunch we took the H1-3 and found a sleeping rhino just past the S126 junction (got better pics later on). Back onto the s126 and the next sighting was of five lions, including a huge lioness. who crossed the track and laid panting, right by the side of the road. She looked rather beaten up but wow! She was massive!



PA124733 adj Lioness by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124735 Lioness by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124739 Lioness by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124745 Lioness by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124749 Lioness by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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There was another big herd of elephants at Shimangwaneni water hole and two more sleepy lions could be seen on the S126. We stopped to stretch our legs at the Muzandzeni picnic site. We spotted a brown Snake eagle as we headed bak towards the H-7 towards Orpen and also this leopard tortoise.



PA124757 Leopard Tortoise by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Further on, and another leopard tortoise was not having such a good day as a souther ground hornbill was getting to work on it with his rather substantial beak:



PA124775 Southern Ground Hornbill and hapless leopard Tortoise by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



Another Black backed Jackal was sighted, it might have been one of the ones we'd seen the previous day.



PA124782 Black-backed Jackal by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Then some giraffes were lit up in the afternoon light:



PA124784 Giraffe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124785 Giraffe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124788 Giraffe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124789 Giraffe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


A stunning Kudu bull was stood on the same ridge by the side of the road as the dogs the previous night.



PA124792 Greater Kudu by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA124798 Greater Kudu by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Disappointingly, we left the park much earlier than the previous day, by about 17.30. But I guess Meneth didn't want try his luck a second time!

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thanks kitty for tshukudu ,trip adviser comments are on the close contact with orphan animals and the comfort ,not that much on the wildlife


looks like africa on foot and nthambo is a better option for cheaper kruger


I found these two places in the UK published TRAVEL AFRICA magazine


I am keen on transfers ,even if I could drive I doubt if it makes that much sense to have to pay hire car fees when you will be just be leaving it in the car park at the camp/lodge unused for days at a time

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so the more honest way on promotion is to mention prospects of seeing animals rather than promising sitings to potential visitors




It's wildlife. So no one should be able make promises. Unless the animal is on a leach. But then it's not "wild"life.


"To mention prospects of seeing animals" is the correct way then, indeed. But what I meant was; all lodge websites do that. Case in point; I know a lodge in Parsons block (Balule, but north of the river) that writes "open to Kruger", "big 5 area", "animals from very close" and what not. But when digging deepe I found out they must always stick to roads (two loops), and have never ever seen a leopard.


So bottom line for me; watch out. And ask on the web about experiences with that lodge or in that area. And check sites like TripAdvisor too. Then use your own good judgement.

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People have seen leopard in the area around Tremisana but it is not a common or regular sighting. Another group saw hyena and honey badger on a night drive. I did consider NThambo and AOF but the price quoted worked out at R9250 which was about £840 and that only included road transfers from Hoedspruit. Plus the dates that had available didn't match the dates I was looking for. So I would have had to get another flight which would have been around R2300-3000 depending on availability (about £210-£280). So with that in mind, you are looking at close to double the price for the same length of safari going with AOF. Of course the benefits will be better game viewing and maybe less time travelling. Though I don't know that it would have given me much more time in the field on arrival and departure days. Perhaps on the last day and certainly in the mornings you wouldn't have that lengthy drive into Kruger.


Apparently they used to try and get to Kruger for gate opening and leave at gate closing. But feedback from their guest was that they didn't get to experience the lodge and it was all too much. Of course I'd imagine most of this community would have been more than happy with that option. I know I would have! :D

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You get to meet all sorts, KittyKat. While


I was nThambo we had a couple that were all giggly, silly and noisy all the time (NOT newly weds, btw, but people somewhere mid-30). They were barely interested in wildlife. They did not say it out loud, but I could see that by 8AM they just wanted to have breakfast and relax at the lodge. Actually, the next day they did not go with us. They wanted to "sleep in". When we returned, she came around a corner parading in some fancy dress. My wife could barely contain her laughter.


Ah, maybe WE are the freaks, wanting to spend every last minute in the bush. :P

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Yes we had a few of those on a mobile camping trip in Botswana. It became clear that they were totally unprepared for having to rough it in dome tents, despite all the pre-trip information indicating as much. I suggested a lodge safari followed by a beach break in Kenya would have been a better option for them.. :rolleyes:

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13th October Balule and Kruger with Isaac


I managed to wangle a cheeky morning drive with some departing guests before heading into Kruger. The morning drive only lasts an hour so we did not revisit the place we had seen lions on the 10th. We saw a few animals and birds including Tawny eagle, perched in the twilight:



PA134803 Tawny Eagle by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We saw tracks of lion and possibly civet or genet:



PA134809 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr




PA134807 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


And a few zebra, impala, wildebeest and Kudu:



PA134808 Zebra by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



Then a sad sight, a very mangy black-backed Jackal. Remided me of the coyote I saw in Yellowstone earlier in the year.



PA134823 Very mangey Black-backed Jackal by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We also caught sight of two healthy looking Black-backed Jackals but they ran off before we could get closer.


Towards the end of the drive we came across a few giraffe.



PA134826 Giraffe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Over breakfast, the monkeys entertained with their antics. One naughty fella decided to steal a yoghurt.



PA134858 Breakfast Time at Tremisana by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Sounds like a great trip, Jo. I think this is an excellent example of a spontaneously planned, reasonably priced trip, for when people need a wildlife/Africa fix but don't want to spend months on the drawing board. I loved the displaying hornbill too. Saw one of your underwater manta pictures, hope you've got at least a few more that made it.

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I got a few, and a nice souvenir video but not as many as I would have liked. I'll get onto that later. This trip still took a bit of planning, especially with a few other options on the cards to begin with, which fell through, but it all worked out nicely for me. It certainly didn't beat Yellowstone for witnessing nature in action but was well worth the money as far as I was concerned and I doubt the safari will hold a candle to the one we have planned for next year! :D

Edited by kittykat23uk
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This was the busiest day and there were two full vehicles going to Kruger. Our vehicle was full and they even put one guest in the front seat next to the driver. The guy didn't seem to mind but I thought that was pushing things a bit. Our guide was Isaac again.


One thing about driving the route we took into Kruger is that you pass a lot of game parks on the way. Through one of the fences I caught a tantalising glimpse of an animal that looked like a big cat that had come down to drink at the waterhole. I didn't get a sense of the colour or any pattern on the fur, just a general impression of the shape. But it's tail was curved and seemed to be the same thickness throughout it's length. There was no mane and it seemed reasonably large. So my guess would be lioness or leopard but really I will never know for sure as we couldn't really stop and it was too distant. :huh:


On the H-7 we saw a mother warthog and piglets. Further on we found giraffes. I seem to have taken quite a few pictures of giraffes this trip:



PA134871 Giraffe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



Then we came across this Purple Roller



Purple Roller by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


This tree is full of weaver bird nests:



PA134881 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Onto the S106 and we came across a troupe of Baboons, I think these two are conspiring to throw poo at some unsuspecting tourists:



PA134883 Baboon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


This one has designs on competing in the Grand National



PA134891 Baboon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



And here's the "king of the swingers"



PA134898 Baboon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We pulled up to watch a Bateleur, but it quickly moved off:



PA134908 Bateleur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


At Nsemani Dam, two Wooly Necked storks, were seen at an otherwise quiet waterhole:



PA134915 Woolly-necked Stork by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



There was also a big flock of Little Swifts



PA134918 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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