A November trip to Kruger and Sabi Sands--we're off!

Nov 11th, 2009, 06:13 AM
  #1  
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A November trip to Kruger and Sabi Sands--we're off!

We are heading out in just two more sleeps (!!!) and are quite excited. Wanted to thank you Fordorites for all the help and encouragement, especally carey999, mytmoss, sdb2, and sundowner who helped me with my photo equpment dilemmas. Some of you expressed interest in our full itinerary so here goes...

Travelling will be me, hubby, and a very interesting woman we picked up off of Bird Chat to help defray costs. We prefer a private-hand picked group as we are serious birders and photographers and it is pretty critical to have like interests. None of our birding friends could make this trip so we resorted to "advertising" on the Bird Chat e-list and we got lucky with E who I think will be a great fit. So anyway, it is three of us in a vehicle with our full-time guide, Leon Marais of Lawson's Birding and Wildlife Tours http://www.lawsons.co.za/

Our itinerary:
Overnight near JNB at Green Palms Guest House. Pick up by Lawson's in morning; then off to two nights in Dullstroom (Duck and Trout Lodge) (this is for birding the highveld and the Veloren Valei Nature Preserve.) Then, early morning visit to Mt. Sheba (montane forest birding) and on to Blyde River Canyon. Birding and sights around BRC (God's Window, Three Rondavels, Potholes etc.) One night at Blyde River Canyon Forever Resort and then on to Kruger.

In Kruger, 1 night Pretoriuskop, two nights Skukuza, two nights Satara. We will be doing self-catering in Kruger to help keep costs down. After Kruger our guide will leave us at Elephant Plains and we have two nights at EP and two nights at Nkorho. In Sabi Sands we will be concentrating on mammals and of course leopards, so we won't need the extra expense of our private guide (who conveniently lives in Nelspruit.) We'll then be picked back up by our original guide after our last drive at Nkoroho and head to Nelspruit for one final night (where we can visit the Nelspruit Nature reserve or Loweveld Botanic Garden in the afternoon for more birding.) In Nelspruit we stay at Arches Guest House. On our very last morning we have one last birding excursion to Kaapsehoop before heading out to the airport for our return flights (which aren't until 9 pm.)

We could have returned directly to JNB from Sabi Sands as most people do, but I opted for this extra night in Nelspruit to break up the long day of return--morning game drive, then a seven hour drive back to JNB and a 20 hour flight seemed not only torturous but a lousy way to end a vacation! This will be much more relaxed and may get us some great additional birds (critically endangered Blue Swallow in Kaapsehoop.) Nelspruit looks like a nice town and obviously our guide knows it well.

So that's it in a nutshell This is a bit of an expanded itinerary to one that Lawson's regularly do and its always quite successful. We hope to tally at least 300 bird species and of course lots of mammals!

One could obviously do this exact same trip without a private guide/driver but as birders with limited time and opportunity (and knowledge of Africa!) having a knowledgeable guide truly expands our experience and in South Africa the cost is far and away more reasonable then we've found in say, South America. Well worth it to us.

I'll be happy to answer questions and if I can post while away, I'll try--I'll have a netbook but not sure what access will be, nor if I'll be too exhausted But will give a report on my return, and let you know about weather in November, as there's not much info to be found on this specific time period.
jczinn is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 08:01 AM
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jczinn, sounds like you've done some excellent planning. I agree with your Nelspruit strategy for the return. I've done that leaving Sabi in the a.m., getting to JNB and flying to the northeast via Atlanta (I think that's what you're doing)---it's utterly exhausting.

Best of luck and have a great time! Steve
sdb2 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 08:30 AM
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jczinn, very impressive plan you have put together, very well thought out. It's going to be great. Looking forward to hearing all about it when you get back. 300 birds, whow, sounds like a lot to me, good luck.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 12:07 PM
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We have just returned from where you are going. You will like Duck and Trout. The rooms are vey comfortable. Their returant is very good. It is a beautiful area and there are alot of birds around. We spent 2 delightful days At Elephant Plains. We had 6 leopard sightings, plus the usual asorted animals. The birds were pleantiful and very colorful. The trackers are very knowledgable there, so I am sure you will have some great sightings if you make your wishes known.
kmkrnn is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 04:23 PM
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Have a great time.

Is this sentence funny to only me?

"Travelling will be me, hubby, and a very interesting woman we picked up off of Bird Chat to help defray costs."
atravelynn is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 06:07 PM
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Have a great trip. We will all be anxiously awaiting your trip report and photos!!

atravelynn: I laughed out loud when I read that line!
scruffypuma is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 07:03 PM
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Hmmm, now that you mention it, I have a good widow friend looking for a "good" women. I'll suggest Bird Chat to him

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 01:52 AM
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Hope you see this before departure!

It's mouthwatering regarding EP:

Lion:
We had the two Mapogo’s come through and feed on a dead hippo. This provided us with three days of good interaction between the lions, hyenas and vultures. It was great to see the big Mapogo’s jump up and try to chase the scavengers away. We have seen a lot of the Tsalala pride and their cubs, moving in and out of our traversing area. I am glad to say that they are all looking fantastic and that they still have all eight of their cubs. On most days it seems that these cubs have eaten so much that they almost need to be rolled from point A to point B! They are well on their way to adulthood. The Stix pride has also managed to keep their five cubs that were left from the original nine that they had. The more I see the three males from the Windmill pride, the more I love them. They are getting bigger every time I see them. Our lone cat, the Sandy patch female, also still has her cub and they are both looking healthy. We haven’t seen the other four Mapogo’s yet, but we get regular updates from the south saying that they are doing well. We’ve had a sighting of two unknown males calling in the east. They soon realized that Mr T and Kinky Tail from the Mapogo males were around and went back north into the Manyeleti Game Reserve.


Salayexe. Picture by Morné Fouché
Leopard:
Our big boys, Tyson and Mafufunyana, are still doing very well. It is fantastic to see such powerful cats and I’m still amazed watching them easily tree big kills. Safari is also still looking good. When I started here at Elephant Plains she was said to be on her last legs and now, nearly five years down the line she is still with us. My favourites, Salayexe and her two cubs, are also doing well. The cubs have grown a lot and they will reach adulthood one of these days! They are now eight months old. Nyeleti is still moving in and out of our traversing area and we were fortunate enough to see her with her three cubs on a impala kill at Serengeti. Ntima, like I mentioned last month, has lost her cubs, but I am confident that she will mate with one of the males soon. Both Shadow and Thandi are fully grown and they are both excellent hunters. They will both start having cubs soon. Kurula is still a bit of a mystery as we don’t see a lot of her cubs, but she is still doing well. We regularly saw Whitecloth during October. Although she is also quite old, she is still looking healthy.

Special Sighting:
We had one of the best sighting ever recorded this month! We had a pack of wild dogs steel a kill from Thandi and chase her up a tree. The dogs finished her kill in seconds leaving her stranded up the tree. They then had an impala run through the sighting, which they also killed. After that a duiker broke its cover and also ran into the pack! While all of this was happening, Safari came running in and tried to steal the left over duiker. She also got chased up a tree. So at the end of the day we had three kills, twenty four wild dogs and two leopards up in trees - all in one sighting. How is that for one of the best sightings in the world?

******************

Have a great safari!

Happy landings!

SV
spassvogel is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 04:20 AM
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Wow, SV that is an amazing recounting--I can't wait to get there. IF I ever get there--now we have a big storm bearing down on NYC tomorrow and my flight (with only 2 hr connection in Atlanta) is looking iffy. I am freaking out, may have to move up my flight at a ridiculous expense but otherwise risk losing two-three days of our trip (as Saturday's flight to JNB is fully booked!) I hate this anxiety, off to phone Delta to see what can be done. Arrrgh I just want to be there already!
jczinn is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 11:37 AM
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Good luck! Seemingly you need it!

Happy landings!

SV
spassvogel is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 12:18 PM
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Delta actually let me change my flight for an earlier one at no cost, due to the storms along the east coast! Whew, now hopefully a five hour layover should be sufficient.
jczinn is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 12:24 PM
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good news jczinn, it will work fine for you now. Get a good nights sleep!!!! Ha,ha,ha, I never can before leaving!!!

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 01:10 PM
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It wasn't because of the storms - it was because I have been crossing my fingers ;-)

Happy landings!

SV
spassvogel is offline  
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