Thursday, June 23, 2016

June 12th - 15th, 2016 - Cape Town, South Africa

We flew Mango from Johannesburg to Cape Town on the 12th and headed to our hotel, The Spier which is a whole lot more than a hotel. The Spier has a farm, winery, eagle sanctuary (for rescues), conference center, multiple restaurants, etc. really plush by our standards and quite reasonable at the current exchange rate of 15R to 1$. Anyway, we settled into our room and got dinner with Greg, Magdel and the kids. The next morning Dylan was really excited about, we headed out to Boulders Beach, part of the Table Mountain National Park, and where the african penguins are. Here are Dylan and Linda at one of the overlooks .....
 and a “What you lookin’ at” close up ..... 
We also drove the Chapman Peak Drive which is crazy narrow and drops off almost vertically to the sea. Being a cyclist I would love to ride the road, being a driver I was appalled that there was two way traffic, much less several cyclists on the road. After lunch we headed to a beach to just hang out. Dylan was very interested in hunting for shells ....
There was a park at the beach with a seesaw that Dylan, Amalie and Julien wanted to play on, being an odd number Linda helped Dylan out to balance Greg and Magdel’s kids .....
The next morning we checked out the Eagle Encounter at Spier which was really cool. We started with the feeding show where several different birds and owls were brought out (a few of the birds landed on audience hands or heads as directed by the trainer) finishing with a Cape Vulture .....
Later we walked around and looked at all the birds. We finished out at the owls, where there were several you could pet (former pets) as well as  an enclosure that you could go into with several owls ..... 
They also had a children’s playground where there were pigs and an Emu that seemed pretty skeptical of Dylan ..... 
In the afternoon we headed to the Cheetah Outreach Center where they educate local farmers about better ways to protect their livestock from cheetahs and house several different cats. We had the opportunity to see them feed several of the animals including Jackals and the Cerivets ..... 
After looking at the different animals we got to have a Cheetah encounter (they are supper soft and have an interesting purr), heres hoping it was also fed earlier .....
On our final day in Cape Town we headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium in the water front area of town. The hope was to see the shark exhibit which had white sharks among others. As you notice I said “had” because that exhibit closed a month before and the replacement, without sharks, was not to open until the day after we were there. Dylan still got a kick out of the penguin exhibit where in addition to the African Penguins they also had Rockhoppers and he got to watch a feeding. After the Aquarium we walked through the shops and had an early dinner at the Den Anker restaurant where the kids occupied themselves they way kids do these days ..... 
There were several different sculptures in the waterfront area including this one that Dylan had to get his photo with while holding one of his own .....
and while the weather did not allow up to hike or take the tram to the top of the landmark Table Mountain here is a shot from waterfront looking up at it .....
The next morning it was off to Rocklands for two weeks of climbing ...

June 11th & 12th, 2016 - Last Days in Kruger NP

For our last full day we left a little later after not having much success with the early morning game drives and had high hopes for a route that would take us by several watering holes and out to a dam. Things started out well enough spotting several Hippos in a pool and one that was out at the salad bar, the first we’d seen out of the water .....
We then saw the Blue Wildebeest for the first time, though got a much better view of one the next day as we drove out of the park .....
At one of the watering holes we came upon a group of Impala and a pair of Waterbucks that were nuzzling .....
We also saw an eagle of some sort (probably a Martial Eagle) chowing some carrion in a tree. This was probably about where the dam was, but with no water in it we did not notice it and kept driving. By the time we realized we had missed the dam turning back would have lead to a really long out and back drive through terrain that we already knew had no water so we continued on to make a large loop, in hind site this was probably a mistake because of what we would find out happened just outside our guest house later. We did however get to see some interesting things. Zebra for just the second time, they are flighty creatures and difficult to shoot as they run from the slightest sound. We also saw  Lilac Breasted Roller which is a beautiful little bird .....
and a horn that had been lost by an Impala probably ..... 
Once we were off the dirt we stopped to get a bite at snack stop and shortly after came across a pair of Warthogs making sure the grass on the roads shoulders was kept nice and short .....
On the drive back to Skukuza we passed through another herd of Buffalo including this pair with the one ominously licking his lips at the sight of our Rav4 .....
We then had to pass through the same point where we’d seen the Hippos in the morning, they were still there, but so was this Kudu, right off the road (I probably could have touched him with my hand still on the car if I’d opened the door and cared to get out, big no, no) .....
On our way into Skukuza we also saw these Marabou Storks up in a tree, goofy looking birds and not what you’d expect to see in the tree tops ..... 
Greg and Magdel had taken the kids out for an early drive along the Sabie River then returned to the guest house about 1-2pm to find a herd of buffalo right outside the fence that were then chased off by a herd of elephants. That evening another group of buffalo rolled up to spend the night not 10 meters from our yard fence, cool.

The next morning, after the buffalo had left in the early hours we took the requisite groups shoot of the two families ..... 
On the drive out of the park we finally made our way to Transport (a watering hole that I’d wanted to get to since the first day after hearing about a lion kill in the open there). On the drive in, off the main paved road we saw the above Blue Wildebeest as well as Giraffe and Impala. Once at the watering hole we finally got an opportunity to see Zebra standing still drinking alongside a Rhino and a lone Impala .....
We also got to finally see, after watching them hunt but not being able to see the water, an African Fish Eagle make a catch ..... 
There was certainly something else in the area based on the behavior of the animals, the Zebra kept a couple of lookouts and there were a pair of Impala that approached to within 10 meters of the water and spent about 10 minutes fidgeting and eventually left without taking a drink. However, with our flight that afternoon and a 4+ hour drive to Johannesburg to get there we had to leave without finding out what was making the prey so nervous. So we leave Kruger NP having seen 4 of the big 5 (Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard) and an ear (of a Lion) flipping as it slept behind a low bush.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 10th, 2016 Full Day of Game Drives

We headed out in the morning to an early drive at 6am, when the rest camp gates first open with high hopes of finishing out the Big 5 sightings (Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo that we’d seen and Leopard and Lion that we’d not). We sadly came up empty during the day on the big ones, however we did see a handful of different things that were quite cool to see/watch. The sunrise was quite nice this is becoming a theme .....
Early in the morning we saw a Impala carcass hanging from a tree that an eagle or falcon was going to works on, which means a Leopard had been in the area .....
Later we saw a Crocodile, much closer than we had before .....
As well as several interesting birds such as this little guy that shows, in Africa everyone is a hunter .....
 a very pretty Kingfisher (though these guys are pretty small even though the name makes them sound big) ..... 
We stopped as a snack shop by the Sabie River to grab a bite and let the kids stretch their legs, naturally they seemed most interested in what Dylan was drawing in his journal .....
After our stop, we followed the Sabie River back to our rest camp and got to catch a pair of African Fish Eagles hunting, one came up with a fish while the other was unsuccessful while we were there, the one on the stump has a fish under foot while the other is still on the hunt over the river .....
Naturally we also saw several of what is now becoming “normal” animals such as Impala, Kudu, Giraffe, Baboons, etc. As well as is young pair of male Impala play fighting .....
After our morning drive we got lunch at the camp restaurant where I tried the Springbok shank which was quite tasty and the size of a turkey leg. In the evening we went out again on a sunset drive meaning that we did not need to be back in the gate by 5:30pm and instead stayed out to look for game at night and by spotlight. Of course the sunset was quite spectacular (as I said, becoming a theme) .....
And we were lucky enough to see a Leopard on the hunt, chasing a bush hare, though it was too dark to get a photo. We also saw a herd of Rhino (about 12-15) at a watering hole. When we got back it was Braai time, while the ladies sat and drank wine, Greg was the cook as usual while I took photos of them .....
the stars and the moon set over Skakuza rest camp .....

Sunday, June 12, 2016

June 9th, 2016 Moving Camp to Skukuza

We packed up early this morning and were on the road from Berg-en-Dal to Skukuza. We followed the S114 pretty much the whole way. At the start of the drive we saw a giraffe across a shallow valley against a hillside which was the first we’d seen so stopped and took several shots .....
 naturally about 100 meters later we got up close and personal with another .....
and this was all before we even hit the dirt road.

New animals we saw today were the Kudu .....
 a Hyena with cubs .....
a herd of elephants with calves ..... 
and a Buchell’s Glossy Starling .....
We arrived at Skukuza Rest Camp early and hung by the cafe until our “room” was ready. Though room is not really the right word, we are sharing the Nyathi Guest House with the Crum’s (Greg, Magdel and their kids Ameli 7 and Julien 5). Considering where we are the guest house is plush. Finally, the moon set over the main village was very orange and spectacular …..


Saturday, June 11, 2016

June 8th, 2016 First Full Day in Kruger NP

We got a late start in the morning, probably after 10, and headed out on a game drive with grand plans to cover some 60km on dirt to get to some Hippo pools then loop back through town to do some grocery shopping. Well, it did not go as planned and we ended up making a much smaller loop on dirt of about 33km which still took over 3 hours then headed into town. Meaning it is a good idea to plan on averaging about 10km per hour including your stops to view and photograph the animals.

Even with the late start we saw loads of animals. Impala, which you really can’t avoid seeing as they are the most populous animal in the park, elephants, warthogs, baboons, buffalo herd, zebras, and african fish eagle and a redbilled hornbill. We also several rhinos again. 
African Fish Eagle
Buffalo Herd
 Redbilled Hornbill
 Elephant and Rhinos
 Rhino Family on the Move
Zebra Traffic Jam
It is amazing how your definition of what constitutes a good photo opportunity changes. We had up-close encounters with elephants, impala, buffalo, warthogs and zebras with the smaller guys feeling a bit skittish wether that was the animal or yourself.
Buffalo Close-Up
Elephant Close-Up
We also saw what was supposedly the flipping ear of a lion as it rested in the shade of a bush, though I’m not counting it. So we are still at 3 of the Big 5, being Elephant, Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard.