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Old 15th March 2019
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DIY Kruger safari pix 6 and final

DAY 9

Oh dear, this is getting near the end of the holiday and we’re short of cat sightings, but matters were about to improve.

We took the road that follows the old Selati Railway. It’s long since defunct but the embankment survives as do the bridges at Croc Bridge and Skukuza and the station at Skukuza. The latter was used at one time as a restaurant after the original had burned down. It was atmospheric but remote from most of the camp and a replacement restaurant has been built on the old site.

Cheetah obviously like the embankment as we encountered this one approaching the road. This was the nearest we got to a decent shot but we followed him down the road for some while as he marked his territory. The cheetah hunts by day because his rivals – lions, leopards and hyenas which are much more powerful – hunt by night. There are reckoned to be just a couple of hundred in the park, compared with over one thousand leopards, but you are disproportionately more likely to see cheetah than the nocturnal leopard.



Compare the colour of this chameleon with the one in the earlier post. He much more nearly matches the road. That’s not good for collision avoidance.



Readers of ‘Jock of the Bushveld’ can follow the trail which was used by the old waggoneers on their way to the coast. Apart from the various markers and Jock’s birthplace the main surviving relic is the picnic spot and café at Afsaal Traders Rest.





DAY10


If day 9 had been rather dull day 10 was to make up for it. On the way to breakfast at the Wimpy at Pretoriuskop we had another cheetah sighting. These two were also marking their territory.



A clutch of cars sighted down a dirt road led us to this splendid fellow, straight out of MGM.



Lions pose little risk to people in a car. That is not true of illegal immigrants. Illegals coming from Mozambique and Zimbabwe often pass through the north of the park. In the ‘90s rangers began to find scraps of bloody clothing in the middle of nowhere and occasionally human remains. When a whole pride, which had been identified as maneaters, was shot in 2003 they were found to be full of human remains including clothing, ID books and purses. The number of victims is not known but could exceed 2,000. There are a few authenticated instances of leopards attacking humans in the park.

We had several elephant sightings of which this is my favourite. This youngster has only two feet on the ground, but older elephants walk with three because two is not enough to support their body weight.



These two were having a wrangle over a small mud wallow.



You do have to be careful in the vicinity of elephants as they are known to attack cars. The culprits are usually bulls in musth, mums protecting their young or delinquent teenagers. An adult must forage for 18-20 hours per day to consume 180kg of food and produce 100kg of droppings. They can drink up to 100 litres daily. All in all it doesn’t leave much time for hassling visitors and most are well habituated to safari goers. They are truly the most fascinating and remarkable of all the animals in the park.



It’s not often one comes upon identifiable tracks. Overnight rain had made the sand receptive and I think these were lion



Traffic can be a problem! There are four safari vehicles here plus two cars together with us and some more behind. They were looking at the cheetahs which appeared earlier in the post.



Early morning drives can be good for catching predators on their way home after a night’s hunting. All our best hyena sightings have come that way. It used to be thought that hyena are hermaphrodites because the external genitalia of both sexes are similar. Often the only way you know which is which is because of the enlarged teats on a lactating female. We were interested in the interaction between these three who were part of a clan we encountered. There were three cubs and this, being larger than the other two, was evidently from a different litter. He was getting a lot of angst from the two older animals. You can see the fear in his eyes and he was making some pitiful screaming noises. The reason for the behaviour was not obvious and eventually they all disappeared into the bush.



Meanwhile the other two cubs had made themselves scarce in the den which was at the roadside. They reappeared briefly for this photo.



Hyena are not the most attractive animals, but the young know how to look cute. Along with lions and leopards they are the major mammalian predators in the park. Crushing a tortoise shell is no problem for them but this Speke’s Hinged Tortoise made it successfully across the road.



Thus far it had been a good day but there was more to come. One of the best hides in the park is that overlooking Lake Panic near Skukuza.

A Jacana was nesting just in front of the hide. It has huge feet which spread its weight and it can walk easily over the lily leaves. This one had just been for a stroll and was settling down on its eggs again. There are three and the camouflage pattern is striking.



Everything looks fine on the surface but what’s happening underneath? The Darter is widely found in South Africa and fishes in a similar manner to the cormorant to which it bears a superficial resemblance as it dries its wings in the same fashion. This one gave a fine performance as it fished below the Jacana, each catch being larger than the previous. The first fish was small and disappeared down the bird’s throat so quickly that hardly a shutter clicked. We were all ready for the next and there was a cacophony of continuous autofocus shooting! The largest fish was yet to come and proved difficult to swallow so the bird took it to a log.



The bird spears it with the lower mandible. But then must get it into a position from which it can be swallowed. Nearly there but it’s still firmly on the lower mandible.



At last!



That’s the last post in this series. I hope they may have inspired some other forum members to take the plunge and go on safari. It’s not just about spotting the Big Five – there is an endless variety of insects, birds, mammals and reptiles who love to be photographed. By the time I’d got as far as this post I had the total cost of the holiday, which for two was remarkably modest. You can see what it was in the last post of the admin thread.

What did we miss? We had two brief sightings of rhino and there were fewer rhino middens than on our previous visits. The poachers seem to be getting the upper hand. Rhino horn is one of the most expensive, and useless, things on earth. On the plus side there were plenty of young elephants which bodes well but when there are too many it becomes necessary to take difficult decisions about translocation or culling.

The Wild Dogs didn’t show themselves and nor did the Secretary Bird but with the long grass it can be difficult to see these smaller predators. A fleeting glimpse of a wild cat was our first but like most moggies it sped across the road without looking or stopping. Spotting small predators is always a problem, especially if they are nocturnal.

I guess that about 95% of the visitors we saw were of European extraction, many indeed from Europe. There’s an urgent need to get others interested in wildlife and its conservation or else the long term future of the Kruger and other African parks will be in doubt.

There’s a forum for would-be safari goers at https://www.sanparks.org/forums/
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Re: DIY Kruger safari pix 6 and final

once again some wonderful pictures that tell the story of the visit AND give inspiration

thanks for sharing

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Re: DIY Kruger safari pix 6 and final

An excellent and inspiring series with informative and interesting dialogue. Sad but understandable that it had to end.



It brought back good memories of our short time (2 weeks) in Kenya (in 2008) when we managed to do a three day safari. I would recommend it to anyone.

Thanks again.

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Re: DIY Kruger safari pix 6 and final

Thank you for the series Melaka.
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Re: DIY Kruger safari pix 6 and final

Quote:
Originally Posted by shenstone View Post
once again some wonderful pictures that tell the story of the visit AND give inspiration

thanks for sharing

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Re: DIY Kruger safari pix 6 and final

Well, this final thread has everything! Big cats, elephants, reptiles, birds - my favourites are the young elephant and hyenas. I never thought I'd say that about hyenas because generally they are unattractive but, as with most mammals, the babies are undeniably cute. Thanks for posting this fascinating and informative series; I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to your next adventure!
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