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A crash of rhinos: Kruger 2012


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Beautiful leopard, love it.

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jochen, a great report and wonderful pics and video.

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Your pics are just amazing; they seem to jump out at you.


The report's OKish too :P

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Your photos make me want to run out a buy a better camera! That leopard is amazing!

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Great report, videos and photos! I'm sorry to hear that Gertie is no longer at Shindzela. I enjoyed the guiding of Mike and Same when I was there in October. I had the tent nearest the waterhole there and watched buffalo at the waterhole from my porch. I'd highly recommend the camp (and found it from your posts... thanks!)

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Part 4: Umkumbe, Sabi Sands


We left nThambo with a heavy heart, as we'd had such great times there. But we were also looking forward to the slower pace at Umkumbe, to relaxing on the deck/pool and watch the river flow in front of us.




As you learned from my trip report of last year; Umkumbe is renovating rooms. When we left last time, one block with three rooms had just been completely revamped. I took pics then, although some lights etc were still missing. We were assigned one of those rooms this time. It looked fantastic.






We also met Jason. He's now the main guide at Umkumbe, taking us on drives morning, afternoon and night. Very knowledgeable guy, and we could see he really liked the place. In fact, we spoke to him about that some time later, and he admitted he always wanted to work in the 'Sands. So now he has his dream job, and loves every minute of it.


The tracker is still Moses. He's only tracking in the morning, as in the afternoon it's the tourists that can sit in the tracker seat. As you all know, that's a special treat that only Umkumbe seems to offer.


Of course Herman and Celeste are still around too. Herman's doing all car and camp repair work now, and when Jason's on leave. But he said he'd like to guide a little more as he started to miss it. I assume that after the next wave of repairs (not guest rooms) he will jump behind the steering wheel some more.




Because of the proximity of the river, and because of some nice open areas with delicious grass close to the river, there's plenty of ungulates to be seen without having to drive far. So we had plenty of nice sightings of wildebeest, kudu, impala, waterbuck, and so on.






Idem with rhino. They are still as numerous as last year. We saw them on every drive, on the part of Umkumbe's plot that is the furthest away from the river. Actually, you could say that Umkumbe's plot is bisected by an old railway line (railway tracks are gone though), and it's in the area to the west of the tracks (grassland with gentle slopes) where the rhinos are to be found.




Jason and Herman have been working on a new road, but it's still very bumpy. Underneath that grass are a zillion volcanic rocks, and those need to go (or need to be crushed).


About the grass; last year here was a bit of a discussion about the controlled burning of grass in Sabi Sands. Sabi Sabi's plot looked like a football field at that time, as far as the eye can see. I can certainly confirm now that it is not just fire breaks that are burned. It's whole blocks. I learned there's quite a bit of landscaping going on. Not only removing bushes (to allow for good game viewing), but also burning, to lure the animals to new green pastures.

How come I know this? Because last time it was Sabi Sabi that burned a whole area, and this time it was Umkumbe (an area not that big as Sabi Sabi's, but that's quite normal as Umkumbe is smaller). So this time; big green fields on Umkumbe side, and because of that: much more rhino on this side. Herman says that's the way it goes; as a lodge you either do it as well, or you see all animals move off to neighboring plots and staying there. I understand him and the situation he's in. I guess it's the way it goes in most reserves, certainly the fences ones like Kapama (got that info from a good source).


Anyway, because of the green grass, we had the most exceptional sundowner ever; 4 rhino's on one side, and while we were watching them, four others came trotting over the hill on the other side of the track.







Too bad that by the time the other 4 rhinos arrived it was too dark to film or take pics.


Other animals were a bit more difficult to spot. We haven't seen lions this time. With lions you have to get lucky; you only get to see them when they move through your plot.


Haven't seen much elephants either. Just one sighting, a very small herd of only 3 animals and a baby. It could have something to do with the grass, I'm not sure. Last time we saw plenty, moving through the high grass.




Idem with leopards; difficult to spot. As everywhere the best clues are tracks. Follow them in the morning and… Well we found tracks, but were unsuccessful finding the leopard. That doesn't mean we didn't see any; one walked along the riverbed right in front of the lodge while we were there at noon. I didn't have my camera. Mira was able to film it just as it disappeared.


Night drives were great, even though leopards evaded us; saw plenty to keep us entertained.








We were the only guests in camp, apart from a father and son from Canada. They had travelled through SA for a month, on motorbikes, and were enjoying the last days of their holiday in Kruger area, hoping to see some big cats.


As Umkumbe is perhaps not the best choice for that, certainly if the time you stay is limited, he asked me if I had seen lions, leopards etc. We told them what we'd seen at nThambo and he decided that they would drive there the next day. Since I knew how to contact the camp, they asked me to arrange it for them.

Now, they had left their bikes in Hazyview and rented a small car to get into the Kruger area, so they said; "if you want you can come with us". We had no intention of doing that, until he mentioned they would be going through Kruger NP itself. It's been quite a while since we saw the park, so …that was very appealing. We decided to join up.


Mixed feelings, having to leave everyone at Umkumbe earlier than foreseen, but looking forward to that drive through Kruger. We left early morning right after breakfast. Not going to start a separate post just on Kruger NP, as it was just one morning, going in at Paul Kruger gate, driving north toward Satara, and popping back out at Orpen gate. We wanted to be at nThambo in time for the afternoon drive!


We saw elephants cross the road behind us, a vervet monkey near the shop in Skukuza, a nyala male, and a kilpspringer posing for us on top of a huge rock. Nice, but it was only at the fist waterhole that things got really interesting; lot's of zebra, giraffe, waterbuck, imapala, and so on. And an egret on a hippo. We took just the small loops next to the main road going north, and on those roads we saw rhino, a buffalo herd, a troupe of baboons, and more rhino. Seriously; this was certainly a "rhino safari"!










Of course, you cover a lot of ground on these roads, and because of that you see more (on average) than on a private gamedrive. Certainly on the tar roads, moving from one waterhole to the next. But the sightings are of a lower quality for me, as most game was rather far away from the road. And the times that they DID come close it wasn't much better. I wasn't at easy with the buffalo all around our small car (how the hell did that happen?), and when the baboons flocked around us we had to close the windows. Seems some dumb tourist had taught them were to easily get food. Photographing from the window of a car is no fun either.


Still, we decided that next time we come, we're gonna throw in a couple of days of self-drive, and try our luck that way too.


We had a snack of dried peaches and bananas at a viewpoint above the Timbavati river and then left the park at about noon. Still a bit of ground to cover. We passed the wildlife school, ended up on the R40, drove a bit north and then east again towards Eastgate airport and Klaserie/Timbavati gate.






Nico aka "the German" came to fetch us, so just in time for lunch, we again found ourselves at…

Edited by Jochen
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Part 5; Africa On Foot and nThambo




We just took whatever rooms were available. The first night nThambo was full; the Canadians took the last available room. So we decided on one night at AOF, and then the next night paying a short visit to Gawie and Yolandi at nThambo. So we had a gamedrive that afternoon and the next morning with Roel, Nico and some French guests. No walk in the morning indeed; way too much wind, and grey skies with some fog here and there. And the next day at noon we switched to have two more gamedrives with Rein and Isaac.


No need to go into camp info again. You know them by now. So I will just summarize some sightings we had on these last two days.


On the afternoon we had arrived we had a nice big herd of buffalo, and some wildebeest which was very weird given that there's not that much open areas. And two rhino (again!) but both boys were rather skittish.





The next day was a really bad day (weather wise). As I said; lots of wind, very cloudy, ...cold too. So drives on that day were about the least eventful of all drives we had on this vacation. Too bad for the Canadians. Although we did see vervet monkeys, a big impala herd in the best light ever, and (yes, again!) a rhino. This one as taking a nap.










The last game drive was better. Although it started slow. By the time we stopped for a coffee break, we hadn't seen much.




But then we smelled an elephant bull in musth. So we tried to find him. We drove all around a particular block, and then all of a sudden he jumped from behind some big bushes. It scared the sh** out of us, but the fun wasn't over; he decided to chase us while we were trying to get away ...in reverse. We managed to turn around after a while and only then, from a reasonable distance, we could take a couple of good shots.




But the best sighting was kept for last; Rhulani was spotted in thick mopane bush, just napping and grooming. So before going home we were able to spend a few moments with the most beautiful cat in the whole of Klaserie. Thanks girl!




After that; time to go. Rush rush. A transfer to get us to the plane just in time. Nelspruit to Jo'burg, Jo'burg to Brussels. Bye bye south Africa. Hope to see you soon.


...VERY soon? m6zip.gif

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Alex The Lion

Great stuff...just wasted (in a good way) hour reading and watching this.

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Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us, really enjoyed the read. 8 rhinos in one game drive? Wowza!

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Jochen, lovely read and some fine photos.


And you don't have to pay top dollar to have a good time.

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And you don't have to pay top dollar to have a good time.


Now there's an unexpected statement coming from you! :P

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Jochen, I am just living up to the expectations here. Of course, you would have had better sightings if you paid more or went to one of the usual suspects.

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aargh! You're doing it again. Stop it! :D

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Jochen , i enjoyed very much the report , nice reading , photos ( dancing baby elephant is priceless ) and videos ( lion brothers roaring is awesome) , great complete package .


Thanks for sharing .

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Thanks Jochen again, what a great read and I loved the photos and the explanations of the burning. Some lovely rhino experiences and photos amongst lots of lovely photos.

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