Thursday, 14 October 2010

Safari Day 7. Exeter River Lodge

Another early morning start, and when we arrived at the main lodge, the rangers and trackers were excited to tell us that overnight the lions has tracked down a buffalo and managed to bring it down about 12 km away from the lodge, not far from the main entrance of Sabi Sands.
Everyone was keen to get going to ensure that we would be able to see the lions with their kill.
Before we left the lodge, Cameron spotted this Foam Nest Frog sitting on a log.
After a photo of the frog, we got into the jeep and made our way towards the lions. Right near the main gate of Sabi Sands, and conveniently right beside the track, the lions lay near the buffalo they brought down the night before.
 Their tummies were bulging, and when this lion did the big rollover move, he groaned....imagine how you feel after stuffing yourself for Christmas Dinner, I am sure the lions felt the same way.
 One lion remains on guard to ensure no one tries to steal their kill.
 The hooded vultures and white back vultures sit in a tree waiting patiently for their turn at the buffalo.
We also saw
Buffalo (living)
Loved these red bellied oxpeckers who sit on the large mammals and eat any ticks or parasites on them.
Leopard (Phil's favourite)

This is also the area that was hit by the electrical storm that we viewed from Bongani a few nights earlier.  Some of the trees were still smouldering a bit.

Hippos (well the top part of hippos)
Dwarf Mongoose
African Funnel Web Spider

There was a huge amount of different  birdlife this morning.
Swainson's Francolin
Natal Spurfowl
Helmeted Guineafowl
Cape Turtle Dove
Grey Go-away-bird
Fiery Necked Nightjar
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher
African Hoopoe
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Bearded Woodpecker
African Grey Hornbill
Chin-spot Batis
Black-crowned Tchagra
Blue Waxbill
Goliath Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Egyptian Geese
Hooded Vulture
Tawny Eagle
African Fish Eagle
Brown Snake-Eagle
Black Crake
Emerald Spotted Dove
Tawny-flanked Prinia
Black-headed Eastern Oriole
African White-backed Vulture
African Jacana
African Green Pigeon
Southern Black Flycatcher

It was a fantastic morning drive.
We got back to the lodge for breakfast and didn't stop talking between us about all the amazing animals we had seen this morning.  It was the first time we had seen a leopard and a cheetah in the wild, and the birdlife was incredible.
Lunchtime was eventful in more ways than one.
A terrific lunch set up on the balcony of the main lodge, where we were able to watch the elephants beside the river.
The highlight for Cameron was watching Ronny and the other staff armed with slingshots, trying to scare the monkeys from coming down the trees and stealing lunch for the guests.  They never tried to hit the monkeys, just frighten them enough that got them to move away.  Ronny taught Cameron how to use the slingshot, and he had a great time firing small stones into the distance.
Then just after lunch finished, a monkey sitting in the tree right above Nicole decided it was time for a toilet break and did it right there.  All of a sudden Nicole was covered in monkey poo down her shirt and all over her arm.  The kids thought it was hilarious, and the staff couldn't be more apologetic, but Nicole just laughed it off after the shock of it, and went back to the room to change into another shirt and wash her arms.
As soon as Nicole got back to the room, she watched in amazement as 3 elephants came up to the front and the sides of her room.  She was "stuck" in her room until the elephants decided to clear off.  That was OK, Nicole just sat near the window and watched the elephants strip the leaves off the trees.
Eventually the elephants wandered off, and a security guard came down to the room to escort Nicole back to the main lodge, just incase the elephants decided to come back.
Afternoon Drive
This afternoon we saw
Tree Squirrel
Leopard, and we smelt before we saw the kudu in the tree that he had caught earlier.
 (not a great photo, as it was getting dark)
Fork-ttailed Drongo
Grey Go-away Bird
Red-billed Oxpecker
Lilac-breasted Roller
African Green Pigeons
We also learnt the word "coprophage" which is something that eats poo. I think it is the boys favourite new word!
On the way to dinner we looked in on the gift shop at the lodge.  On a shopping bag was this quote
"I am where I have been"
It's a great quote that we all can relate to!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Leaving Bongani , arriving at Exeter

It was with great sadness that we left Bongani this morning.  We have had some fantastic experiences while we were there, and we hope that one day we will be able to come back again.  If ever you decide to go on safari, Bongani is a fantastic place to encounter the most amazing wildlife.
We thank Steve and Aaron for our incredible wildlife encounters, and wealth of knowledge that they passed on to us.
We said our goodbyes and headed north to our next stop.  Along the way we stopped at Hazyview for petrol and a leg stretch.  We wanted to get some money out of a cash machine, but the machine at the petrol station was broken, and the guy repairing the machine couldn't tell us if it would be ready in 5 minutes or an hour.

Outside also filling up their car were a couple of policemen.  So we thought we would ask them if they knew where the closet cash machine was.  The police were fantastic, and said we will take you there, just follow us.  So we got in the car, and followed them into town to the closest cash machine.  While we were getting cash out, they waited for us, and then got us to follow them to the main road again so we could continue to Sabi Sands.  They gave us a wave and we continued on our way! We were thrilled and so grateful for their assistance!

A fairly uneventful drive north to Sabi Sands, and we got a laugh from the hippo signs on the road, as we are more used to kangaroo, koala and wombat signs.  I would hate to think of the damage to the car if you hit a hippo on the road.
We got to the edge of the Sabi Sands entrance, signed in, and had a 12km drive to Exeter River Lodge.  We were in the game park.  Don't get out of the car, keep your windows up if you encounter lions.  Nicole was petrified, and not comfortable at all on the 12km journey to the camp.
 We got to Exeter River Lodge, and encountered these gorgeous warthogs along the path!
 We had 2 rooms booked.  Phil and Alexander were in one, and Nicole and Cameron were in the other one.  There was no way Nicole was comfortable with the kids being in a room by themselves and us not being able to get to them in the middle of the night (we needed a security guard to escort us in the evenings - especially with the local leopard who likes to drink from the dip pools on the balconies).
The rooms were stunning. 
The foyer.
 Lounge area
 Beds, with bathroom in the distance
 View from the bed, dip pool, and just below the dip pool is the grassy area just before the river.
 Bathroom, with big windows to view while you shower
 Bath, and the view of the outdoor shower.  Phil tried it out and said it was fantastic, Nicole was still freaking out about the local leopard, and was happy to bath inside.
In the lounge room were these amazing animal guide books.  The kids were thrilled with them, and took them while we were out on game drives to see which animals they could tick off.  Cameron loved seeing all the different type of birds.

We settled in to our rooms and then met back at the main lodge to meet Ronny, our "butler" for our visit.  Ronny was fantastic, a charming, sincere and funny man who looked after us.  He proudly showed us photos of his adorable children, they live in one of the local villages close by. Ronny made the kids his "famous pink" non alcoholic cocktail, which quickly became the kids favourite drink in South Africa!

The main lodge is open, they have some issues with the local monkeys which we experienced the following day, so they have to be careful with food and drink. The monkeys show no fear and are happy to walk right up to the tables to grab a piece of fruit or a drink.  The boys thought they were hilarious! (much happier with the monkeys than the baboons!)

After a quick bite to eat for afternoon tea, we met our driver Craig and our tracker, Martin  who would look after us for the few days we were at Exeter.  Craig wanted us to make it a quick snack, as 4 lions had been spotted not too far away, and he wanted to show us the lions before they took off again.  We didn't need too much encouragement, so we skulled the drinks, put on the mosquito repellent and we were on the jeep fairly quickly.  We were pretty excited, but also cautious as those 2 lions in the boma at Bongani had given us a real scare when they let out a tiny roar....and we were ok with that as they were behind a fence...this was totally different!

Exeter sits on about 10,000 hectares of land, so lots of room, our tracker, Martin was great, along with being in radio contact with other safari vehicles who were also on the lookout for animals.

So, we found the 4 lions fairly quickly and we followed them for awhile.  The kids complained that Nicole was squeezing them so tightly.  Those lions were hungry!  They were thin and you could see their ribcages.  They were following a scent of something, and then were on the move.  Nicole hoped the lions wouldn't see the kids as a tasty snack before the main event!
Not easy to take photos, but we got this one, you can see those ribs!

After following the lions for a few kilometres we left them alone to find other animals.  Cameron was really hoping to see a live attack, but Nicole was quite sure he would find it distressing.  Thankfully we left before they caught up with whatever they were tracking.
We also saw
Slender Mongoose
Scrub Hare
White tail Mongoose

Greater Blue Starling
Grey Go-Away-Bird
Crested Francolin
Natal Francolin
Swainson's Francolin
Magpie (Longtail) Shrike
Arrow-marked Babbler
Saddlebill Stork
Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill
Red-billed Hornbill
Fish Eagle
Fork-tailed Drongo
Fiery-necked Nightjar

Back at the lodge, Ronny was waiting for us with an amazing dinner on the balcony of the main lodge.  We managed to see the local leopard wandering beside the river, then we were safely ecorted back to our rooms for a good night sleep.
It was a great day and we hoped that perhaps the following morning we would hear if the lions caught up with whatever they were following.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Safari Day 5. Bongani Mountain Lodge

Morning Drive.
Up at the usual time, the storm had cooled the air down and it was back to a comfortable temperature again.  Armed with enough mosquito repellant to cover a small army (we were on guard when it came to malaria), we head off again with Steve and Aaron.

It  was just the 4 of us today, and Steve asks us as we drive off "What do you want to see today?"
"Zebras and Wildebeest, we haven't seen any yet" says Nicole.  Aaron looks at Steve and laughs, we are not sure what that means.  So Aaron just says "We will see what we can do", and off we drive.

2 days before Cameron had borrowed Steve's mammal and bird guide books, which he read front to back during the day.  The guides were fantastic, photos of male and female of each species, footprints, poo samples and heaps of information about each animal.

We were stunned when we were driving and Cameron said, "There's a Klipspringer".  We hadn't seen one before, and he spotted it before Steven and Aaron.  Steve asked "How did you know that Cameron, that's the first one we have seen?"  He replied "I read it in your book"
We also saw:
Tree Squirrels
White Rhino
and we found some Zebra.  The zebra were a bit skitterish, but they made the most amazing noise.  We had never heard a zebra before....they are all so quiet at the zoo!

Purple Crested Turaco
Southern Bobo
Red Bull Oxpecker
Blue Wax Bullbird
We enjoyed the mid morning breaks, when we found a peaceful spot and had a drink and something to eat.  The kids enjoyed listening to Aaron tell stories about different insects, grasses and other stories,

and also climbing on the rocks...but not too far away.

Afternoon Drive.
Our last drive at Bongani, we leave for Exeter in the morning.
We saw
Lions in the Boma. 
We hope that when the lions are let out of the boma that they stay around Bongani.
Steve said that the last lions they brought in from Kenya ran straight over to Kruger after they let them out of the boma, and never saw them again.  That was an expensive purchase.  There is a female lion at Bongani (although we never saw her), and the rangers have seen her at the Boma, so they are hoping once the brother are let out of the boma, they will form a pride with the female and stay around.
Brown Snake Eagle
Cape Glossy Starling
Blue Wax Bill
African Hoopoe
African Cuckoo
Mouse Bird
Fiery Necked Nightjar

the kids loved sitting in the jeep while we drive around, love being off the tracks, and love it when Aaron has to get out of the truck to get us through the bush.
The boys wished they could sit in Aaron's seat while we trek around the bush. 
They enjoyed sitting in the seat when we had a break though!

We have had such an amazing time at Bongani, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to do a safari type holiday!
Thank you to everyone there who made our trip so fantastic, especially Steve and Aaron!