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Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Raleigh, North...
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Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Getting there

Flew into JNB and Rented a SUV with full insurance.

Left side drive was no trouble to adjust to even though I was driving on left for the first time. Roads and highways are fairly well marked even though signs are a little bit different. Stayed in a hotel for the night at Sandton (considered safer part of town).

Drive to Malelane – Started at 4 in the morning. was a great drive. Couple of pit stops at gas stations on the way. All of them do take credit cards although I preferred to pay by cash.

Closer to Malelane there are delightful fruit vendors by the road side and picked up some fruits. Construction delay was only 15 minutes on N4. Entered Malelane gate at 9 A.M

Guide Books

Gates sell the official Kruger Map/Guidebook – 35 R

Camps stores (Park Shop) sells the Honeyguide version which is fantastic for maps and identification lists -60R

In effect, you end up buying both to get around, unless you have a map preprinted.

Day 1 – Malelane to Biyamiti

Routes – Malelane loop, S114, S25

Fantastic game on the first ride inside the park through Malelane loop. Impala, Kudu, Elephant, Zebra, Giraffe.

S114 and S25 – Extremely rich in game. With Impala, Elephant and Hippo in the river as you take the river loops, each of the river loops were very productive. Saw couple of young Bateleurs on a tree

Biyamiti Camp Review – Good facilities. Not all cottages have River view. Has a very good bird hide where you can sit in and watches the river action. We saw a couple of fish eagles and just as we were sitting there a very pregnant lioness came in for a drink and disappeared with in a minute.

Cottages itself could be better designed especially the shower. But overall good facility. Great cooking facilities. Well maintained and Clean.

The approach road itself is prime game area with a great river view point where you can get down. Since only reserved guest can drive on the approach road, very less traffic.

Night Safari – Civet right outside the camp, Elephant family going to the river, Shrub hares running in front of the safari van multiple times, An African wild cat and also a white tailed mongoose – SPECIAL SIGHTING.

Day 2 – Biyamiti – Crocodile Bridge – Lower Sabie – Satara

Routes – S25 to Crocodile Bridge, H 4-2 to Lower Sabie, S29 and then H10 to Tshokwane, H1-3 to Satara

S25 continues to be very productive, with great bird sightings and animals as well. Giraffes, hippos, impala, zebra, wildebeest and warthogs as we get closer to Crocodile bridge.

H4-2 to Lower Sabie – very active with the herbivores and a group of vervet monkeys etc, zebras elephants, vultures and the river views have great visibility to hippos and crocodiles and great bird sightings

LOWER SABIE – What a fantastic Mugg and Bean setting for a river view full of animals.

S29 – Waterbuck, elephant herd, Giraffes, Baboon family. Spectacular view of open plains from Nwagovilla view point. At this point Impala doesn’t count any more as a sighting.

H10 – Steenbok – a very special animal – and common duiker , crocodiles.

Tshokwane picnic spot has the most friendly 2 bushbucks and not so friendly troop of vervet monkeys.

H1-3 to Satara – Dominated the 2 spectacular waterholes at Nwatinungu, Kumana, Marheya. Very low chance that these waterholes are empty. If not the big animals, the bird viewing at the waterholes were fantastic

Ran into a huge herd of buffaloes (nearly 500).

Tough spot as we stopped for an elephant on the road, then there were about 3 more to the left with a baby, very close . Quite unexpectedly one more showed up right behind.

2 KM short of Satara big commotion as a lioness was spotted with 3 cubs a few minutes before. MISSED IT.

Satara Camp Review – Just as we checked In to Satara, big commotion as 2 Hyenas (quite large) were spotted at the Satara waterhole.

If you stand outside the reception area, 100s of bats exit from the camp reception rooftop. Also resident owl in the tree during day time.

Satara camp should be renamed Satara City  Almost everything is available here.

Great view of the night sky, the milky way. Seriously YOU HAVENT SEEN THE NIGHT SKY UNTIL YOU SEE IT FROM THE AFRICAN WILD. Quite a sight.

Early morning got very interesting with a male lion roaring away in the early morning hours. Had many folks brandishing the flash light and rushing to the fence.

Day 3-4-5-6 to follow

Cornwall England
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1. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Great thanks keep it coming!

Dallas, Texas
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2. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Love this! Thanks for sharing brings back amazing memories.

New York City, New...
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3. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Wonderful. glad you enjoyed your trip! Will wait for your other part of the trip report. I too love the Mugg and Bean at Lower Sabie.

Gold Coast...
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4. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Hi Rob

Just loving your report, and I especially love that you detailed which roads you saw what, for me that means I can picture exactly where you where!

Glad the drive out went well, I have often said you can be at the park much earlier than flying if you are willing to get up early enough haha, and good you got lucky with a nice short delay at the roadworks.

Your sightings were amazing and how lovely to read about all the different creatures you appreciated without any emphasis on the Big 5. Even Bateleurs, wonderful.

I see it did not take you to long to stop looking at Impalas, you will have to head back in November to see their lambs, then they become interesting again!

Hey there is nothing quite like hearing the lions roaring from camp, magic, our very favorite sound. Always worth going to have a look, they have bought down buffalo right at the camp waterhole. Even to see a Steenbok is great, sounds like your antelope sightings were excellent.

Await the next instalment.

Naracoorte
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5. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Really enjoying your trip report :)

For us, living in country Australia, the night sky of the southern hemisphere is stunning every clear night. But to see our familiar stellar landscape on a still, clear African night in the bush is a such a special privilege and one to cherish.

It doesn't matter how many times you hear a lion roaring (that word doesn't describe the sound at all does it?) in the dead of night or in that time just before sun up, it never gets old. It is magical.

Gold Coast...
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6. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

So very true Tryhard, nothing like that sound in the world, especially when you are close enough to feel it through the ground, incredible. And the best bit of course when you leave camp at dawn, and the source is on the road right outside camp, unbeatable.

Manchester, United...
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7. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Mrs john does a very creditable imitation of a lion roaring. Cones from a time in TZ when we had three prides near our tent.

Idaho
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8. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Thank you Rob for your trip report.

Since we have never been but are planning a 2015 trip your report really help.

We understand that sightings change from day to day but it gives us an idea

what we may see and experience.

I wish there were more of these types of reports.

I'm looking forward to reading about the next days reports.

Thank you again.

Leo

Raleigh, North...
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9. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

Leo

The sightings do change morning to evening. That is one reason why we stopped chasing things from sightings board at the camps and started just following routes. Do let me know if you have questions.

Raleigh, North...
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10. Re: Trip Report - Kruger Self Drive Safari - June 2014

DAY 3 -4 TRIP REPORT -

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Day 3 – Satara – Timbavati route – Tamboti

Routes – H7 to S12 to Timbavati, S 127 – H1-4 South – S90 –S41 – S100 to Satara, H7 to Orpen – Tamboti

Early Morning at Satara 5:45 at the gate and first in line.. In the excitement, dropped the car key into the key box instead of the lodge key. Great fun with son freaking out. But acacia trees are so useful with that nice thorns to fish out the car key.

Ride out towards Orpen – Jackals cuts across the road, slow down and the #2 car flashes past me. Oh well.. Big Ellies on the road walking away.

On to the Timbavati Route and run into more Jackals/vultures but no kills. Onto a Baboon family with 3 babies and their antics made a great start. Some ostriches and a common duiker help us along. In a clearing, a great sequence of impalas fighting and 1 refereeing the fight. Although impala doesn’t get a mention anymore, this was most delightful.

There is a waterhole near Timbavati - Ratelpan - by the big tree which is great for small birds. Timbavati picnic spot has a couple of bushbucks as well. Also allows you to rent a propane/natural gas BRAI stand.

Leave Timbavati and take S127 back and immediately run into a Verox Eagle owl on a tree. Very hard to spot but very exciting and the sheer size of it is exhilarating.

More zebras, wildebeest, kudus later turn right on to H1-4 and then left to S90.

Immediately on a tree we spot a Martial Eagle on a tree. Thank you zoom camera. Later review reveals that this bird has probably killed its sibling and is sitting by the nest. Huge GIRAFFE on the road. And then spot a big bird flying around with too much of a tail.. it lands so gracefully SECRETARY BIRD and 2 of them. This day is indeed special.

Further down a massive elephant on the road, not too happy at all and he struts over to the pond giving us great opportunity to click from this side of pond.. A few km down 2 more secretary birds round off the morning for us.

Turning Right towards S 41 Watering hole –Gudzani- provides the beautiful shot of a Giraffe in for a drink, legs spread out, neck going down, gulp some and lift its head and do it all over again so gracefully. Something we all treat so casually.

S 100 turns out to be prime leopard country with the low branches, impala etc but not much sighting. But we are certain that the leopards are there and laughing at us.

Towards the end of S 100 run into the biggest Kudu we have ever seen. With a triple spiral horn and neck the size of museum pillars. In search of a good shot spook it enough for it to do a spectacular leap and dash across the road. How does something that weighs 400 lbs or so, leap and run so gracefully.

Turn into the main road to Satara and Satara camp has taken a look of paradise with wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, impala and zebra all visible from the gate.. For once I like satara.

After late lunch, we take the main road to Orpen and run by the beautiful Nsemani Dam/Watering hole with hippos and crocodiles and sighting of a fish eagle catching a fish and eating it. Vervet monkeys, impala, baboon fill up the place.

Straight drive to Tamboti as we are running late on time to get to Orpen to check in and drive to Tamboti is well. In between, some silly safari vehicles have stopped for Impala (UGH) and the spectacular sunset over the bush slows us down, but we make it just in time.

Tamboti Camp Review – Tamboti has the most intimate/close to wild setting of all camps we were in. the Common ablutions is very clean and well maintained, but depending on where your site is located, can be quite far away. Sites 1 to 10 are closer. As we get settled, the place is abuzz with a cheetah sighting inside the camp that afternoon.

We are by the brai stand having dinner and a hyaena walks by on the other side of the fence. Flashlight to the forest reveals a genet. We are already hearing the baboons to be very restless. Once we settle down early morning reverberates with lion roars, wild dogs bark/yelp, leopard growls and what not. It was a truly magical night.

Magical night transforms to scare as I reach the gate at 5:45 and the gate is wide open. I have the hair on my neck standing up literally. Since I was the last one in previous evening and the first one out, not sure if the gate was closed at night. Forum posts indicate they close it at night. I sure hope so.

Day 4 – Tamboti – Olifants – Letaba

Routes – Tamboti H 7 towards ORpen , Timbavati, S 127 , H1-4 to Olifants, S44-46 River route to Letaba.

5:45 at the gate again and we set out with heightened expectations due to the night sounds. But no sightings. Little dampened down, and soon we are on the main route towards Orpen.

Spotted a bush baby on the shrub – very special – it was with us for about 30seconds – too jumpy to take a pic. But great sighting.

Little further down a Giraffe by the road, standing behind a bush half its height and it is sticking out like a flower from a flower pot. Lots of fun.

A little later, we are thinking it is a waterbuck that is crossing the road. But it is a male NYALA. Totally unexpected this far south.

By now, iam not a fan of wake up so early routine, but 2 of the above sightings really were special only because we were so early on them.

Timbavati route is quite normal with the usual sightings other than a male and 3 female ostriches and usual quota of herbivores

Stopped by the Olifants River Bridge and got out, but oncoming tourists tell us about a lion pride close to Olifants. Just stop by the cars is the directions. So off we go and spot the Male Lion (still young) with 2 females do what they do best, Sleeping in the shade quite close to the road. Height of excitement.

Olifants camp has the spectacular river view from so high that you can see the fish eagles soaring below you. Restaurant work is going on. But the view has us going for some time.

From Olifants we take the river side scenic route S44-46 and see herds of giraffe and impala/zebra etc and couple of great scenic view points. This route is quite thin on big game, but we spot a pair of steenbok very close to the road and a monitor lizard on the road. Also a small and very full stream had a medium sized crocodile, which was surprising from an elevation standpoint as we were very high up from the river.

Scare #2 : got into a river route which takes you right to the river bed down a small incline and a fallen tree, take pics of hippos and birds etc. As we try to go up the incline the sand is quite loose for tires to grip. So try few more times and I am close to panic mode as we have no cell coverage and walkie talkies are out of range as well. 15 minutes later, a godsend good Samaritan shows up and helps get us out of the mess.

As we get out of the loop, we see the route is marked closed but the closed sign is visible only if you are coming towards Olifants. Phew.. so warned couple of folks I met on the road and moved on.

Also spotted a Kori Bustard, several eagles and smaller birds. Olifants area has a lot of birds to see, but overall game density does go down.

Letaba Camp Review – we had tented sites at Letaba which were fantastic , but the real highlight of Letaba is the Elephant Hall. Mindboggling, the size of those magnificent beasts which don’t walk among us anymore and a great job of preservation by SANParks. Now we have a different perspective on the “big” ellies that we encountered during this trip so far.

The resident bushbucks (we saw 4) are quite amusing. There are also bushbabies in the trees close to tent sites.

The view from Mugg and Bean at Letaba is fantastic as it is right on the curve. Many different kind of birds from Herons to other water birds. While many herbivores are by the water or coming and going.

Note: Letaba and Satara have laundry rooms which work well and they were close to the tented site. So took the opportunity to wash some of the cloth piles.

Forgot to set alarm for next morning, but woke up by a huge bird call just in time. Thank you nature.

Day 5-6-7 in the next installment - Paradise here we come.