Cat House

Nancy Vandermey, Author
South Africa Trip September-November 2017

On our way to Talamati camp it was quiet, there was a zebra trying to give birth but it was a stillbirth so we didn't stick around. Chalet #4 was lovely, we went back out at 4:30 to the Shimanguaneni dam for buffalo, ground hornbills, posing duiker, and awesome fig trees. The next day we tried the dirt road south which was horribly corrugated, with a few elephant and rhino sightings. We cut over to the tar road and were rewarded with 6 lion (3 female 3 cubs) in the riverbed, and a sickly old leopard nearby. Also 2 more antipoaching rangers. A kudu was busy eating a sausage fruit at Kumana dam, we headed back to camp to have elephants trumpeting at the waterhole. In the morning we looked for cheetah but only found tracks. At Muzandzeni picnic site we met a nice couple (Martin and Sarah) who showed us a resident Scops owl. On the way back to Talamati we found 4 cheetah, and stayed with them for a while. They were in the same place in the afternoon. On Monday the 6th of November we looked again for the large wild dog pack near Orpen with no luck. Heading south from Satara we found lions on a wildebeest kill, and north of Kumana dam a leopard resting in a tree. We headed down to Tshokwane via some dirt roads, saw 6 more lion in the bushes, several elephant herds, and returned to the leopard, who had just left the tree. He wanted to hunt some impala but mostly wandered around and then left the road area. More elephant, rhino, giraffe, and ground hornbill as well, and one more night at Talamati. It got windy overnight, and was heavily overcast Wednesday morning. We saw some new flowers, bushbuck, 2 male lion in the rain, more elephant, rhino, more baby impala, colorful bee eaters, and 6 hyena at a den north of Satara. Then it was time for our last wilderness trail, Mathikithi, with a German couple and guides Ronnie and Joas. The morning walk was nice, with general game on an overcast day. The evening was a game drive, to the Sweni river with rhino, elephant, and a lion pride (10 or 11 total). We also saw two ostrich families with young and a large herd of buffalo with a hovering black shouldered kite nearby. More genets driving back after dark. Our final walk was back down by the Sweni river, after seeing the lions again first (3 big males this time plus females and cubs), we walked to Marheya Dam, seeing footprints of poachers in the bush which Ronnie reported, we hear 3 men were arrested later that day. That evening we climbed Mathikithi Hill, then walked near 200+ buffalo and visited the lions again, about 19 total: 3 big males 3-4 younger males 5 adult females and cubs of various ages. That night we heard hyena close by, and distant leopard. We finally headed to the south of the park the next morning, going past 10 or so of the same lions. There were lots of turtles and tortoises on the road after the rain. At Lubyelubye rocks we saw a male lion on a buffalo carcass across the river, with a giant crocodile nearby. The lion moved the carcass from a sandbar but couldn't get it up on the riverbank. A large male elephant was being pushy on the road, luckily we could get around hime safely. We were not impressed with the 'luxury bushview' tent at Lower Sabie, poor workmanship not enough screens no ceiling fan noisy sliding doors and NO view at all. Sunday the 12th we went north, no lion at the carcass, on S21 we found 4 female lions with 4 small cubs in the rain. And then got our first taste of OSV (outside safari vehicle) hell in the south, we left when 2 arrived and 10 more were heading in! Renosterkoppies found some klipsringer and more baby impala, then on the H1-1 were a mother cheetah and one cub, young enough to still have some white ruff. Sadly we were told there had been 3 cubs yesterday, and 5 two weeks ago. The cub was still chirping looking for siblings, but Mom wasn't. Some kudu passing by didn't generate much interest. They were far off but with good glass fairly visible, we were surprised how many people just had cell phones for cameras and no binoculars. Next was a 1st visit ever to Pretoriouskop camp and doing the circle and fayi loops, with elephants on the rocks. The cheetah were still there on the way back, the cub got scard by a warthog passing by. We went up on the 'sand flea' hill before checking in at Skukuza. We did the night drive, starting off with 5 hyena right outside camp, then a pile of wild dog, lesser bushbaby, genet, hares, and owl. An early morning did not pay off at first (although Lake Panic hide was nice as always), until we wandered onto the S3 by the Sabie River and a male leopard. After a shower I went out again, 4 male lion and a female in the riverbed by the H12 bridge, and a sleepy leopard by the Nwatimhiri pan. In the evening the lions were still sleepy, but there were lots more impala babies. On Tuesday the 14th we went south, with elephant and rhino, but we still reached Berg En Dal way too early to check in. We had breakfast there then headed into town to shop, with good timing - a male leopard was under a tree, then used a culvert to cross the road and (unsuccessfully) hunt kudo, then laid in the shade. He wasn't there when we returned from shopping. We did a sunset drive, with a shy female leopard the highlight, plus elephant and about 16 rhino, plus jackal and hyena. More elephant and hyena the next morning, and then a leopard at the Matjulu River bridge, and 3 sleepy male lion on the S114, more rhino, lots of impala, and 2 more lion on S28. A storm was coming in, we got to Biyamiti at 2 pm just as it started pouring. When it stopped we braiied some steaks, went for a short drive (several woodland kingfishers), and came back to another thunderstorm with great lightning. On Thursday the 16th it was misty and cool, only 2 impala on the way to the weir. The crocodile there was shy, after that we found giraffe, elephant, and waterbuck. Past Transport Dam were 2 cheetah in the rain, and 2 sleeping lion on S65. We had breakfast at Skukuza, then headed south, missing a leopard near Afsaal, and returned to Biyamiti. On an afternoon drive we did the Mpondo Dam loop, finding buffalo and the usual game. Our last full day was Friday the 17th, after a pretty sunrise we found 3 hammerkop with a frog kill, kudu and hyena and the usuals, 2 distant cheetah on S28, and part of a large pride on H? be there were way too many vehicles to see much. A buffalo carcass at the low water bridge had a lot of crocodiles in attendance, and two hippo were fighting in the reeds along the Sabie River. A break at Biyamiti had duiler, bushbusk, waterbuck, and buffalo all visiting the river in front of camp. The evening drive had lots of big gray animals, and necking giraffes. Our last day we were up at 4 to shower and finish packing, out at 4:48 am to the weir seeing duiker, impala, waterbuck giraffe steenbok and dwarf mongoose. Around the corner was a beautiful male lion posing next to the road, I think we spent 45 minutes with him alone. There were several klipspringer pairs among the rocks, then on the tar road were 9 wild dog: alpha pair (male collared), 2 subadults, and 5 puppies. On the H1-1 I chose the Napi Rock loop as that was a new road for me and there was a leopard in a tree with an impala kill. Getting back to H1-1 we saw 2 cheetah walking into the bush, no pictures but still a nice sendoff. Last animal seen in the park was a young giraffe. We had lunch at Pretoriouskop before heading to JNB for the long journey home. souvenirs

Page 1 - Cape Town, Kgalagadi part 1
Page 2 - Kgalagadi part 2
Page 3 - Kruger part 1
Page 4 - Kruger part 2