Sabi Sands Trip Report for Dec 2005/Jan 2006

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Jan 26th, 2006, 09:44 PM
  #1
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Sabi Sands Trip Report for Dec 2005/Jan 2006

With people returning from trips after me, I feel I should let no more time pass before I begin, so:
Part 1
Brisbane, Australia via Hong Kong to Johannesburg - Normally I go Qantas to Sydney then onto Johannesburg, but I get so sick of them not having a frequent flyer seat available, that I went Cathay Pacific this time, which meant a flight that was considerably longer, but I left Sunday at 1pm and I arrived at our 1st destination for lunch on Monday which I was thrilled about. We did a combo of business/first and the time always passes way too slowly, no matter how much I drug myself. I usually take a niece and this time it was Sarah who is 22 years old and has had a week in Tanzania in Feb 2001, when we did the Bahamas, New York and Tanzania. The gameviewing was particularly disappointing, so I was really hoping for great gameviewing on this trip.
So we flew directly to MalaMala, and were picked up for 1 night to Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands, knowing I would be back for another 2 nights after Xmas. We went to 4 places this time, which I don't like but because of certain restrictions, that is how it turned out and I would not do it again! Two is definitely my limit!
The accomodation at Ivory Lodge is fantastic and I loved the rooms. Having to go outside to get to the lounge is odd and the lounge can only be used during the day because of that. I am not a food person at all, so the food was fine. Sarah is a really fussy eater, and she certainly found enough to eat everywhere and neither eat what we can gameview, and that often really limits what is available. The location on the Sabie River is beautiful, Sarah often said the outlook looks fake as it was so lovely - not that we often saw any animals, and God knows I look! From the dining deck, we did see one or ele bulls and a beautiful bushbuck and her baby which were not tame, but certainly let you get quite close.
Gameviewing - we did see 3 leopards in our two gamedrives which was great. An older female called Magondzwane Female, one of her daughter's, Warthog Wallow Female and the territorial male, Tumbela. We saw two lions of the Roller Coaster Males (sorry these are MalaMala names)and a lioness and her 3 subadults of 3 years of age from the Hilda Rock Pride. We saw a mixture of antelope, some hippo and that was it. So for our 1st stop, we thought we had done pretty well.
Next up we had 7 days at MalaMala. We had Leon as our ranger and most gamedrives we shared the vehicle with other people. It was during this time, that I have had the worst people to share with. It was a child problem, and the boys involved were 19 & 21 and it was the family from hell and I really do not need to say anymore. I am always comfortable here as I have been here quite a few times and my stays are reasonably long, but I do love it!
Gameviewing - always fantastic and this time was no different. I love so many things, but we saw the male subadults of the Eyrefield Males, did not see the adult male which was a bit disappointing. We saw zebra, buffalo, monitor lizards, skinks, all sorts of birds, giraffe, kudus, impala, leopard tortoise - and I always need to get out and photograph these at ground level -hippo, the Styx Pride including the poor old female who died shortly after we left, and the poor thing did look dreadful so a blessing!,the two Split Rock Males, beautiful klipspringers, 2 types of snake, gennet, bushbuck, dwarf mongoose (Sarah's favourite), rhino, cheetah - a magnificent sighting of a female with 3 cubs about 10-12 months of age and we saw them two different gamedrives, waterbuck, crocodile, hippo, the beautiful saddle billed stork and probably a lot that I didn't photograph, as that is all I keep a list of. In this week, we saw 13 different leopard which included a kill. The Ngoboswan Female was lying down at night, then all of a sudden she was up stalking and sped of and we heard the scuffle and then the cry of a duiker, we were there within 60 seconds. Unfortunately she had the back of the neck, not the front and it would have taken her about 8 minutes to kill it. No sooner had she done that and rested for about a minute, she shot up a tree. No sooner had she done that, there were two hyena racing in, obviously hearing the distress call of the duiker. We also had a very special sighting with ele, the best our ranger says he has seen in the 15 odd years Leon has been a ranger. Going back to breakfast, we had stopped not far from camp to watch ele partaking in a mud bath. The young ele are just so funny to watch as the longer there are in the mud, the more they roll around and look to be having the best time. So after 30-40 minutes, they had started to move away, and so did we. Then as we were ready to cross the causeway, ele started coming from the opposite bank through the Sand River and headed east. It was easily over a hundred and as they blocked the causeway, we were stuck. Leon had to reposition the vehicle constantly as they seemed to be heading in all directions.
Unfortunately, this memory card was left behind in a safe and was never found, so for the first 6 days of our gameviewing, I only had a handful of shots that I had taken on film. I was not happy, but what can you do! The gameviewing here was great, with both leopard, lion and cheetah and I also love taking photos of many other things, and I have some great photos from the end of my 1st week at MalaMala.
We were also upgraded for the last 2 days of our stay to Rattrays - a magnificent room. This and Lion Sands are my favourites, though both very different, I loved them both - the gameviewing is way better at MalaMala.
From here we went to Singita Boulders.
This is my 3rd visit and we were only here for 2 nights. I really still come here to see someone that works here. The accomodation is lovely, but not my favourite. The gameviewing is OK. We did have a great sighting with another Cheetah and her 7 month old cub and we saw one male leopard. We also saw a lion pride, Otttawa Pride and 2 of the lionesses had 6 cubs of 12 months, and there were 3 older subadults of around 3 years of age, one of the males has only one eye and I was pleased to see him doing so well. Got great photos of a hinged tortoise here, as well as drinking buffalo. The food was good but up until now we had very unfortunate weather, and that actually happened for most of the trip. Over half the days would have been overcast or raining, and it was relatively cool on a lot of days, and bordering on cold in the early morning and at night. Not what I consider to be summer in South Africa!
Next chapter we head off to Londolozi!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 01:24 AM
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Part 2
Londolozi - This was very disappointing - in both gameviewing and accomodation - though the food was wonderful! We had room 110 which is a Bateleur chalet. The bedroom was tiny, so the room sizes obviously vary. I am horrified at what I paid per night for that room, not even a comfortable chair to read in! The gameviewing I also believed would be very similar to MalaMala, and I was wrong. I did get some great bird photos, fish eagle, goliath heron, green backed heron, grey heron, bateleurs, egyptian geese. We did see 9 different leopard and 3 different lion prides, but overall, the general game was disappointing. We did see a huge number of hippos at night, which was surprising as I am not sure where they all were during the day! We were here 5 days. The photos for those 5 days are not many, and I do tend to overtake photos of many things, not just the big 5. Elephant were rarely seen, I think we only had the one sighting, and I thought that being on the Sand River, we would get more water sightings, but that didn't happen.
Here the rangers do not have breakfast or lunch with you, but they have every 2nd night meal with you. I do not really understand that, they either eat with you or they don't! It wasn't a dreadful stay by any means, I was obviously expecting too much from what I had heard or read. It was a dreadful room for the $ amount that I paid - size and the general tired look of the room. The brochure information was also incorrect about all suites and chalets having views of the Sand River, we could not see more than a couple of metres from our verahdah into thick scrub. The other major problem I had here, was the negative statements regarding neighbouring reserves. It certainly was not from the high majority of staff, but even so I feel it does a huge disservice to Londolozi, as it should rate highly by its own merits, not try to rise above anyone else by being negative about them!
Onto better times - 2 more nights at Ivory Lodge, Lion Sands.

To be back at this lodge with the space after cramped quarters was wonderful. For some reason we were given the honeymoon suite - it is beyond me! The only difference being that we faced due west - not a treat in summer, by 3pm the room was so hot!
The gameviewing again was reasonable, we saw another 3 leopards, 2 being the 2 year old daughters of the Magondzwane Female - one blue eyed and one brown eyed. Also had a view of the Rock Drift Male, an older male from MalaMala who is being pushed by younger, stronger males, it would seem.
Also had a great hippo sighting, by walking down to a section of the Sabie River, where hippo congregate, a large pod I would imagine for the Sabi Sands. This visit we noticed the non-Lion Sands traffic a lot more - on communal roads that other reserves used, we would pass maybe 10 vehicles, all watching when someone went off road to see if the animal watched would come on to their area. It was annoying, as I would rather be away from the traffic and finding something ourselves. I actually like a lot of vehicles out, but by radio contact, I think we should pass very few. So a lot of eyes are looking out for sightings, not just one vehicle. Having been in camps where only a couple of vehicles are out, that is when they sometimes have difficulty in locating animals - I prefer more vehicles out but keep away from each other unless at a sighting. It did seem to be that Sabi Sabi were nearly everywhere we were one gamedrive, and the number of times we passed I think it was the Bush Lodge which seems to be built almost what I would consider a small highway for vehicles.
Now, for the last 5 days we returned to MalaMala.
Gameviewing - again we had good general game, elephant, kudu, impala, zebra, some great nyala bull photos, rhino, buffalo, birds, dwarf mongoose, waterbuck,monitor lizards,
My special sightings would include - the pangolin, my 2nd, even though we never saw his head. Two male cheetah, very nervous to begin with, then over time becoming quite relaxed. A 2.5m African Rock Python which killed a male steenbok, then moved it to a less open position, then we had fellow guests who thought it was boring, and we returned to camp, probably with steam coming out of my head. A once in a lifetime sighting probably, and it was boring! During that evening another ranger told me that they left when the head was partly swallowed. But we went back next evening, and the body was still there - so nothing had touched it and the snake must have been nervous about something and abandoned the kill. It was a big snake at 2.5m and I believe they can grow up to 5m! We had two daytime sightings with chameleons which I also love. They are so cute and something else I can get real close to for a photo! We saw our second leopard mating with the Chellahanga Male and the Jakkalsdraai Female. We must have been with them for over an hour, the first part was in less than desirable conditions, the second could not have been any better. Our ranger, Bens guessed what they would do and it worked out perfectly! One day we also watched for over an hour, the 2 x 14 month old female cubs of the Campbell Koppies Female, chasing an angry tree squirrel. The cubs, though clumsy, looked so graceful and agile as they raced up and down trees, and back and forth by branches through trees. It was a fabulous sighting, and they came close to getting the squirrel. Then another time we watched the Manyeleti Male leopard up a tree watching a lioness on a rock, then the remainder of the pride walked on by, with the leopard watching the lions, the lions glancing at the leopard, and us in the vehicle watching both the lions and the leopard. Another great sighting that we were lucky to witness! Over two days, we watched the Styx Pride and the Split Rock Males devour a female buffalo, who was pregnant, a fact I didn't need to know I might add. At the start of the kill, the older male had it to himself, and the last day, the females and cubs were there as well and everyone looked very well fed. Not a highlight by any means, but it reminds you what a tough life these animals have, and it is a tough life, where missing an opportunity could be life or death. We found a lioness that had been attacked by a hyena, and as a result, chewed off her tail to the base. We had heard about her on Londolozi and they thought she might have died as they hadn't seen her for a while, but had seen her 2 subadult daughters. Anyhow, she looked OK and the wound looked OK, not great, but OK, but her 4x7 month cubs looked dreadfully thin. I know one good kill could make a difference and I am hoping she has one good kill in her, but I feel doubtful that the cubs will survive, more hopeful for her though, especially if she reconnects with the subadults, who are nearly 4 and one in particular is a skilled hunter.
Had a glimpse of an African Wild Cat and a civet, but still no closer to seeing my serval, preferably with kittens.

The real highlight, if I had to name one, was probably the cheetah, as last year I was gameviewing for 44 nights and only saw 1, this visit I saw 8, and each of the 3 sightings were very high quality.
I also love seeing the same animal, as it goes through its life - obviously this refers to mainly leopard and lion. To see 2x2month old leopard cubs and know that they are healthy 14 month old cubs who seem to be doing really well, fills me with happiness as I read and see too many horrible animals stories, that are usually too hard to watch.
To finish this trip, we had an overnight in Johannesburg. We then flew to Hong Kong and had a long 18 hour stopover before catching a flight back to Brisbane. So we were tired but happy when we returned and of course, the next trip is underway!

I have photos on Abode Photoshop or some name like that, I would love to show them but I have no idea what to do - if any has any suggestions, please let me know.

Kaye
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Jan 27th, 2006, 01:54 AM
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Thanks for sharing...

When you say you have photos in Adobe Photoshop, do you know what format the files are saved in? If you look at the file names do they end in jpg or psd or tif or something else?

We can try and talk you through the process of sharing them online.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 03:25 AM
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Hi Kavey,
They end in a jpg - hope this is good?
Kaye
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Jan 27th, 2006, 04:12 AM
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Kaye

OK, first step is you'll need to open each image and downsize them - you don't really want to put the full size versions online - it will take ages to load and also means anyone can just print your pictures.

So in Adobe Photoshop, open each image, use the Image Size command (under X menu in my version) to reduce the size of the image - I would change the units of measurement to pixels if you can and then make the longest side 600 pixels.

IMPORTANT: Once you have done this do not just press SAVE or you will LOSE the full size version of your image. Instead use File SAVE AS to save a COPY of the image into a NEW folder called REDUCED SIZE or such like.

Once you have all your chosen images at smaller sizes let me know and we'll talk about how you can best get them online.

Kavita
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Jan 27th, 2006, 04:14 AM
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X = Image menu, sorry!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 05:23 AM
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Hi Kavita,
Thanks for helping me, unfortunately this does not come easily to me. I have tried to do what you ask in Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0, and I think I did it, I tried on a photo I don't care if I destroy. I'm not getting the last bit about putting it in folders. It is now 12.30am, so I am leaving it now, and my friend's husband, 2 doors up, who set this up for me, as it is way over my head, I will get him to start me on what you are asking. I'll let you know when I have all the pictures made into that tiny size.
Have a good weekend.
Kind regards,
Kaye
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Jan 27th, 2006, 05:31 AM
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Thanks Kaye:
May I beome a niece?
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Jan 27th, 2006, 06:12 AM
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Kaye
You know when you make a new file (like a word document or a spreadsheet or a picture) when you save it you have to tell the computer not only what it should call the file but what folder it should save it into?
What I'm suggesting is that once you have made the changes to each picture file, instead of saving changes to the original file, you save a copy of it into a new folder that you have created for this purpose.
If you're not sure how to create new folders, and your neighbour would be willing to help, ask him to set the folder up for you and show you how to save the mini picture files there.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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Kaye

Thanks for sharing, sounds like you had a great time. We had slightly better luck with the weather I think. Interested in your coments re vehicles in Lion Sands area. Also did you do the Leopard Experience at Londolozi? If so, how was that? I know a lot of Fodorites were interested.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 06:21 AM
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Very interesting trip report -- fascinating about the python -- I would have had steam coming out of my ears too if I had to leave a sighting like that!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 07:19 AM
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Great report, Kaye! You saw a lot of great stuff - all the lions, leopards and cheetahs! And being blocked/trapped by the elephants, was that scary?

So who wins when all the guests don't agree on whether to go or stay, the majority? I sure would have wanted to stay and watch.

Even with the not-so-nice weather, it sounds like you had a rewarding trip. I hope you can get the picture thing worked out.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 07:36 AM
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"you don't really want to put the full size versions online - it will take ages to load and also means anyone can just print your pictures."

Kavey, what's the concern with others printing my photos? I don't think many of us are in this as a business, but if I was, couldn't I put a watermark (copyright or my name or something) over the photos? I have seen others do this. Thanks
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Jan 27th, 2006, 08:14 AM
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Well, you may not worry about it but a lot of sites such as kodakgallery allow anyone at all to order prints of photos uploaded there - the photographer doesn't get a cut, indeed they don't even get to find out.

However, one can upload a version sized for web display only that stops this from happening.

Even if you don't care about others profiting from your photos the other advantage is that it takes a lot less time to upload appropriately sized photos to these websites than sending huge image files.

Putting copyright text onto the images works too but it takes a lot longer to do that (or to explain the tools to someone who doesn't know them) than to create websized copies instead. I have used the copyright route myself but I created and ran a batch action in Photoshop to do all of mine in one go. I wouldn't want to try and explain how to do that to someone else!

So there are a couple of reasons right there...

Of course, if people want to upload their full size photos to the web that's their prerogative!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 09:23 AM
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Thanks, that makes sense.

One small point about kodakgallery. After sharing photos with family and friends, I have received an email when a purchase was made and I received a credit for future purchases. Maybe this was a one-time special, but I received a small credit ($3.00 or so) after a relative purchased a mug with a polar bear photo and some other stuff.

Thanks
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Jan 27th, 2006, 11:59 AM
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Hello Kaye,

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your experience at Londoz -- I have had so many wonderful days there that it always pains me when I hear that someone hasn't enjoyed the same calibre of experience. I've never stayed in your particular room at Bateleur Camp, but the rooms I've stayed in have had comfy chairs to curl up in and were quite spacious. The rooms aren't identical, and I suppose that I may get particularly nice ones because I've spent so much time there.

If I were you, I'd write to CCA describing your concerns. In my experience, they are pretty responsive to guest comments and hopefully things will improve. Bateleur is slated for renovations this year, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things turn out.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 27th, 2006, 12:05 PM
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Michael
That must be new then... my understanding is that they didn't used to offer anything to the photographer. In any case I don't use them for my printing so credits would be of no use so I simply uploaded my images at a size suitable for web viewing only - the largest prints anyone could order would be wallet sized so, unsurprisingly, people aren't going to bother!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 02:45 PM
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Thank you everyone, and we did have a great time. In answer to your questions:

Bat - sorry, there is a long line in front of you!
NapaMatt-did not have a good experience with leopards at londolozi. As it stands now I would not waste my money, I do not believe that Sarah and I saw any more than anyone on normal gamedrives, once again a real disappointment, that carried over to everything on Londolozi except for the chef and his kitchen! There seems to be a huge difference in what we are told to expect and what the ranger at Londolozi is prepared to do! It truly was incredibly disappointing, and if I did do it again, which I am not planning on, I would do it in winter, and a timetable would be set out that both parties agreed to before I left Brisbane.
Lisa and Sundowner - I certainly didn't win in that decision, I could not believe my ears when the ranger said that we are heading back home - I have had that a few times, when others are waiting - and I really don't have a problem with that, it's disappointing but fair is fair, and I would not want someone else to hog a sight and for me not to get a look in! But no-one else was waiting, and this couple were nice enough but sometimes I think that people do not come close to realising how lucky they are when they witness some sightings!
With the eles - definitely not! Leon is one of the most ultracautious rangers I know with ele, so scared was the least of my feelings. I loved that it was a great sighting, and that it made us late back for a meal!
Julien - I hope that is not the criteria for giving you a reasonable size room with a comfortable chair - that you go there on a regular basis, because as it stands, if I hadn't prebooked I do not know if I would return, and as we were there for 5 nights, I would have expected a more spacious room and kept that as a single room, for the rates that I paid it was outrageous! I wrote my complaints over two weeks ago, so I am still waiting for a response. Yes, I was also told that Bateleur will be renovated in March and quite frankly from what I saw it is long overdue, but I shouldn't think that would change the room size of #110.

So thank you again for your responses. I am going to work on those photos over the weekend!

Kind regards,
Kaye
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Jan 27th, 2006, 10:46 PM
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Photos
STOP. The FIRST thing you do with digital photos is to make a copy of them as they came out of the camera so that you have two sets of the original files. I would like to repeat this in all capital letters, but I won't. It is guaranteed that if you do not make this backup copy you will or your computer will screw up the originals. So, obviously with the back up copy you can reload and nothing is forever lost. If you don't know for sure how to make a back up copy of the original photo files, STOP. Find someone who knows this cold (it is actually not difficult) and have them do it. Of course, all of this assumes that you really care about the photos to begin with. But the more you care and the more important the photos are the more certain that you will lose them if you do not have a backup copy. One of those Murphy Law things.
regards - Tom
ps - great trip report, many thanks
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Jan 28th, 2006, 03:01 AM
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Hi Kaye,

I had a nice large room (with comfy chair) the first time I stayed at Londoz, so I don't think that had anything to do with repeat guest status. The rooms I have had on repeat visits have been a bit larger than the first one I stayed in, but that may just be random variation -- I can't be sure.

If you don't care for the rooms at Bateleur, you may want to consider changing your reservation to Pioneer or Founders. They are newer and posher, whereas Bateleur is more historic. Of course, that may change with the renovations. When I spoke to the managers, it sounded like some fairly major renovations were planned, so that may include enlarging some of the rooms.

One thing you should be aware of is that Londoz doesn't charge a single supplement. So you and your companion can each have your own room if you want to.

Cheers,
Julian
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