When the Honey Badger calls…

When the Honey Badger calls…
When the Honey Badger calls…

There is just something about a Honey Badger. This is a creature that deserves every ounce of respect that they get and yet we love them and in many cases we see them as adorable. In fact, I have often pictured myself having one as a pet and I guess this is because of multiple encounters with them over the years in Kruger Park.

 

Honey badgers are the reason why with every trip to the park, we try and stay at either Orpen or Tamboti. Yes, a visit from these ingenious night creatures is a virtual guarantee at these two camps.

 

The very first time I saw a honey badger in the wild was on my husband and my first visit to Kruger as a married couple. We were driving in the area near the S39 and sightings had been particularly scarce since a fire had burnt away most of the vegetation. The ground was black and gray, when movement caught my eye. Yes, despite the destruction, a honey badger had managed to source food. Out of nothing it found something. A testament to its tenacity.

 

Our next encounter with Mr. Honey badger was at Tamboti Tented Camp a few years later. As a group of friends we were sitting around the fire when screams broke the silence of the night. We heard a woman yelling: ” Jou Vabond, dit is my peri-peri hoender!” (You thief, that is my peri-peri chicken!) Yes, the thieving Badger had stolen an entire chicken flatty off our neighbors braai! Later that night, cozy and tucked into our beds I heard the familiar claws scraping on the wooden deck. Then, I heard the most crazy thing. It sounded as if someone was sucking water out of a gym water bottle after a heavy cardio session. When we peered out the door, we saw that Mr. Badger was holding up my 5l bottle of bought water and he was sucking down with gusto! I am pretty sure it was the peri-peri that needed some cooling down!!!

 

One thing I’ve also noticed over the years is that these animals have a particular love for avocados. No matter where I have hidden them within the cupboards Orpen, they have found a way to get at my precious guacamole! With my own eyes I saw how one of these animals climbed to the top of the cupboards, leaned over, jiggled the latch until the bolt moved allowing the cupboard to open and “Badgy” helped herself to our precious green fruit! To save your food, keep it in the unit with you.

 

Those poor cleaning ladies, every single morning they have a job cleaning all of the bins that have been tipped over by greedy honey badgers. Go on, do these ladies a favor and empty your bin into the main rubbish bins before you go to bed.

 

In fact they will try and eat anything. My last encounter with a honey badger was also at Tamboti camp. Since all the plug points are in the kitchen area on the outside of the units, that is where you need to charge your camera batteries. Plugged securely into the socket was my camera battery. A honey badger managed to loosen it and tried take a bite out of the battery. Since battery wasn’t very good on the palate, he threw it down on the ground. Leaving my spare battery unusable. And making me realize that there is no way I would ever want to be bitten by those teeth.

 

Most of us regular visitors to the Kruger Park have a honey badger tale to tell. These creatures certainly add an extra dimension to every visit to the Park. Next time you are in Kruger, I hope you get to tell a story of when the Honey Badger Called!Honey Badger

 

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William Pretorius Grave

William Pretorius Grave

A trade route found by Joao Albasini (ruins seen near Phabeni Gate) from Lydenburg to the coast ensured independence from Britan. Sent to investigate this such route was Karel Trichardt apart of the mission was a young companion called William Pretorius.

Leaving Lydenburg, they headed towards Delogoa Bay, taking the route past Pretoriuskop, down Voortrekker road past Ships mountain and towards the coast. It was near Ships mountain William Pretorius fell ill with malaria. It was decided that the mission would carry on and Pretorius would return with 2 Shangaans for medical assistance. Unfortunately the fever overcame him and he died under under the old Marula tree in 1848 near the current site of Pretoriuskop.

The 2 Shangaans hurried to Joao Albasini homestead to report what had happened and they returned and buried Pretorius. The peaked hill where Pretorius died became know at Pretoriuskop. And too this day arguments rage as to wether Pretoriuskop is named after William Pretorius who died under the Marula Tree, or after President Pretorius who visited in 1865. Guess we will never know and have the freedom of choice to believe which we want.

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Golf game in Kruger Park

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The Skukuza golf course was built in 1972, originally for Skukuza personnel. These days it is open to public and highly recommend for the sheer thrill of hitting a golf ball in the wild.

 

The Skukuza golf course is situated on the outskirts of Skukuza restcamp, next too the Skukuza village. It is a 72 par, 9 hole, 18 tee course, tee off times are between 7.00 am and 11.00 Sunday – Friday.

 

As the course is unfenced, animals are often seen roaming along the course. Regular animals sightings include Impala, warthog, birdlife and even hippos and crocodiles in the surrounding water. Lions, leopard and the like have also been spotted and when you arrive be sure to look at the photos in the office of various kills that have been made by predators on the greens itself. A few months back there was great excitement when the ever elusive pangolin made an appearance on one of the holes.

 

There is a full bar facially along with a small kitchen which serves light lunches and breakfast to the locals and public. Standard dress code of a golf course applies, and caddies, carts and clubs are for hire.

 

The signature hole, the 9th hole, you play over Lake Panic back towards the clubhouse. And although throughout the course there are no bunkers, there are many trees, animals, bodies of water and exciting birdlife that will keep you on your toes.

 

The course is designed for all levels of golfers and is a great way to watch animals while having a game of golf.

 

So if you find yourself staying at Skukuza and feel like a break from the car, why not head down to Skukuza Golf course and enjoy the thrill of the open bush and the excitement of a game of golf.

 

To book a game of golf contact the club on 013 7355543

Golf game in Kruger

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Timbavati picnic site

imageTimbavati picnic site

If you stay at Satara Restcamp you are sure to visit either Timbavati or N’wanetsi picnic site. If you chose morning Coffee at Nsemani Dam and thenTimbavati River road towards Timbavati Picnic site you are in for a treat at the Picnic Site. Elias Chauke, who lives and works at Timbavati picnic site will take care of your every need. From the minute you arrive – either helping you with your picnic basket, to ensuring you have enough chairs to brining you your gas and skottle for your morning fry up, Elias is hands on.

Added to his attention to detail, he has an incredible knowledge of the surrounding area and the location of many of the animals. Many times he has told us the lions roared last night from the west – and many times we think we will drive a short distance down the road to the west – and voila their are the lions right where he said they where heard. Without the use of vehicle he can accurately tell you where the animals are. Call it intuition, knowledge of the bush or the fact that they passed the picnic site earlier that day – Elias is 99% spot on with his route suggestions.

Don’t forget to ask him about the wildlife around the picnic site, owls, bushbuck. Water birds in summer season, breeding vultures nearby or resident lion pride or leopard in the area. Besides his own knowledge, people visiting the picnic site are always eager to share their sightings with him – so always be sure to ask.

Elias has worked in Kruger Park for over 39 years, some of you might know him from Baulue, Skukuza and Pretoriuskop restcamps. He has been working at Timbavati Picnic site for the last 8 years. His favorite animals is a lion. Which he sees often from the picnic site sometimes up too 2 sightings a week. One month he had a lioness hide her cubs in the reeds of the dry river bed and on regular occasions she would be spotted walking up the dry river bed to the Cubs hiding place. He even witness her move them twice, once for hyenas and then for the rains.

His favorite bird is a francolin. Out of all the Kruger birds, we asked him why. Many times once all the visitors have gone home and he is busy cleaning up and making his way to his lodging, a francolin has warned him against predators in the area.

 

Although he has no matric his knowledge of the bush and its surrounds is amazing. And when his family comes to visit in the school holidays, you will see him teaching his 6 children what they will not learn in school. The love and appreciation of the bush. Be sure to spend some time chatting to Elias next time you visit the Satara are and find yourself near Timbavati picnic site,

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Exploring Satara and Malelane with Safwanah Gunman

Mating squirrels A new year always means new plans, as for me, Kruger still holds my heart for another year to pass.

A ladies trip, one I have always wanted to do, finally took place at Satara in February. Two nights with a few friends was definitely one to remember, although the sightings were dry, there is just something special about the beauty Satara has to offer when it comes to a sunrise and a sunset. We chose Satara, for one specific reason, the white cub. We searched and searched but sadly, we came home heartbroken. But that just gives us another reason to go back!

 

On an ordinary Monday afternoon, with the heat at its peak, my mom & I decided to take a drive around the Malelane area. My hope was to get a leopard sighting, but that did not happen. To actually think of it, I haven’t had a leopard sighting for 2015 as yet! We drove around for over an hour with barely any animals in sight, of course except Impala. Running oh so cutely on the road, a squirrel caught my attention that wasn’t even there anymore. It is so hard to ever get a photo of a squirrel because of how fast they seem to disappear, but I approached this one slowly and watched as he appeared onto a thick branch. Seconds later another one appears and they happened to be a mating pair! Mating squirrels! Lucky for me, my camera was in focus already and I got the shots, with the perfect lighting of the sun. This was by far the most unusual sighting I have had to date! (photo attached)

 

On the 25th of February, I took a solo afternoon drive around Malelane Gate area, & once again I drove and drove with barely any animals in sight. It seems like the animals are taking a gap year or my luck has just gone! But I never stop driving till the time to exit the gate arrives. I drove the S110 tar, for the second time that afternoon, & I found, after a good few months, wild dogs! Most people are not fans of these dogs, but I can’t even seem to find a reason as to why I love them so much. I was so ecstatic, had you seen me, you would think there were a pride of 30 lions on the road. I sat an hour with a pack of 10 dogs and barely any cars in sight, which is a plus especially down South of Kruger. Wild dogs have got to be the most entertaining animals in Kruger for me, apart from baboons.

 

So this is basically how January & February has been for me, quiet but I still have hope for amazing cat sightings to come, like they say, every trip is never the same.

 

Sharing every Kruger memory with you..

Safwanah Gumanimage

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The Olifants River Back Pack Trail Part 2

Day 2

Departure is at sunup to try get most of the walking done before the heat of the day. It also meant my first walk out with Ogre! Once again Willing and Able husband came in handy. One to dig the hole and two to keep a lookout. After morning duties are done we head on out.  Morning pack up! What a setting. (See Picture)  Walking along the river means ample opportunities to see and hear birdlife. It is unlike any Kruger Trip you can imagine. All five your senses are involved. You feel truly part of the park. The danger that surrounds you, alerts you to the fact that you are just another mammal.

A very slow mammal with a very thin skin….

After a snack break we really start to feel the heat. Piet alerts us to the fact this is going to be one of those unusually hot August days and we need to push on to make it to a point where we can bathe/swim and relax for an afternoon siesta. When the temperature hits 48 degrees I really did think I was going to collapse and die. The backpack felt like rocks on my back and just when I thought that it would be me that brings the whole group down by collapsing in a pile of sweat, we reached our lunch destination. Lunch and a swim. (See Picture) Yes please. Two hours to rest and cool down in the Olifants River. It was heaven on earth in that water! Never mind crocs and hippos we were not getting out! Where else in the world would you be able to hang out with your mates in a wildlife reserve river?

For the next part of the hike we were taken up to Eden and Hell. Aptly named. A stunning view but hell to get up there on this particularly sweltering day. I was pretty grateful for my Super C’s! We set up camp quite early as the heat is just to much. What a great spot on the river’s sandbank with the river right in our view. (See sunset picture)

Our river bath is interrupted by the appearance of Mr Hippo. He popped just behind us and we had to make a hasty (but NO running) retreat.

Dinner was cooked and while watching the setting sun we sat around the campfire. Despite the heat of the day we felt like we were in heaven. That night I slept like a baby and it was a good thing too. Apparently we had a visitor during the night…

Day 3

Our morning wake up is filled with nervous laughs and giggles. All around our tents are “cat prints” . Yes a lion had walked right by us for a drink in the river. Not one of us heard it and I am thinking that is a blessing! That feeling you get seeing the paw print next to your tent is something pretty special.

Already we can feel the temperature rising but in comparison to the previous day it is pretty mild at only 35 degrees!

It is another interesting day as we glean valuable bush knowledge from Piet and Andre. We spot a buffalo and walk carefully for the next while as they are renown for double backing! Also a sleeping hippo under a bush kept us on our tiptoes.

So many small things that you would never notice in the car is revealed to those who brave a walk. You are often left wondering if any of our forefathers walked these trails back before civilisation took hold.

Our last evening is one spent really getting to know our guides. Not as tired, we get to ask them about their lives and love of the bush. Tales and stories are shared over our last sips of whiskey or Amarula. Now that we have got into our routines, we all wonder how can we go back tomorrow? Already plans are formed to hike again!

Day 4

Our final day has a slower start. We stop to watch a small herd of Waterbuck as they graze and drink from the river. With only a few kilometres to cover we try and take in as much as we can. Breakfast is enjoyed right next to the river. (see picture)

Another cooker and although very sad that the hike is ending I was also relieved to see the end in sight. A last walk up to the old fig tree signifies the hike is over and we have conquered the Olifants Wilderness Trail.

When the truck arrives we are spoilt with a very deserved ice cold beer! South Africans know how to celebrate with cold one! It is a much shorter drive back to Olifants camp and as luck would have it we stop to see a lioness along the road. Back at camp we attack the local restaurant and dive into some burgers and more ice cold beer.

The hike is a must do for any true Kruger enthusiast. It is the REAL Kruger. I can honestly say you could never regret embarking on such an adventure. I hope to do it again one day soon but for now I rely on my memories to sustain The Bush Baby within.

 

The old fig tree and the Olifants River Trail Conquerors !

Olifants Backpack TrailimageOlifants Backpack Trail

 

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The Olifants River Back Pack Trail Part 1


When a holiday has a gestation period of 11 months you kind of hope and pray it will be worth it… That’s how long in advance you need to book for the Olifants River Back Pack Trail and believe me taking the time to do so is very worth it!

We chose to hike at the end of August as that would be about the hottest weather we could handle. Dealing with a 48 degree day was just not part of the plan. Cooling down in the Olifants River was. Together they made for an unforgettable trip and a memory to last a life time. Let’s not jump the gun (we could leave that to the guides) and rather start at the beginning.

The sanparks website gives a very comprehensive list ( found here: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/camps/olifants/tourism/Olifants_River_Hiking_Brochure.pdf) of what to pack and it is definitely worth looking at but in addition here are few musts!

What to pack:

First and foremost A SENSE OF HUMOUR!

It will be an unforgettable experience if you have the right attitude and friends. Yes there are going to be times when you will be uncomfortable, bruised and most assuredly BLISTERED! So my number one item is LOADS of plasters and sunblock. They will be your best friend. Plasters for the feet and sunblock for the face. A hat is a must too.

Water purification tablets will ensure that you only need to carry about 1 litre of water at a time. Believe me you don’t want to be carrying any more than you need too! Plenty of water is available, but you need to be able to purify.

Lightweight clothing. One set on, one in the bag. Unlike I did, NO BRIGHT colours. ( Apparently it makes you a target, unless of course that is your thing.)

We found that Trail Shoes were fine (boots can be pretty hot!) but you definitely need hiking gaiters to prevent grass seeds from embedding in your socks. (Short gaiters are perfect).

Duct tape. Quite frankly I don’t know how MacGyver didn’t use duct tape in every episode. It is pure magic to fix any problem.

The medical kit and Ogre ( your specially designed toilet maker ) is provided by the guides. Each person gets a turn to carry these items. How you divide the “carry time” is up to the group. (Bringing an awesome husband,who could take my carry time was a wise move)

So another thing to add to the list. One Willing and Able husband 🙂

For some of us a small Hip flask, with great single malt, was deemed as a vital part of our limited luggage space! (for me it was Amarula!) Either way it was worth it when the fire was going at night before bed. A little something to warm the heart.

When it comes to food, the lighter the better. Try get creative, it makes meal time part of the adventure. We took steak for the first night and it really made an excellent first meal. Eggs packed in a secure holder are the prefect source of protein. Boil them when you are ready for an energy boost.

Now that we got the boring stuff out the way lets get into the actual hike. I can tell you what our experiences were, but as you can imagine every hike is different and that is why most hikers will do the same hike again because just like driving in the Park you can take the same route and have a variety of results.

I would recommend overnighting at Olifants camp as the trail departs from here in the morning and you don’t want to rush around, you want to enjoy the excitement of what is coming.

Day 1

Meet and greet at Olifants reception area. We were pretty fortunate, in that the entire group was made up of our friends so the only introductions were between our group and our two guides. Piet (lead) and Andre (second rifle ) immediately set about making sure we were relaxed and ready to go. A few North vs South (Bulls vs Stormers) jibes along way made the drive from Olifants camp to Phalaborwa gate bare-able. The legs are ready to go but you need to endure the 3 hour drive before you hit the hiking trail. Instructions are given: the most important being that no matter what…. unless told to, you NEVER run. You walk in single file behind the guides and talking is kept to a minimum. Guides depend on their hearing above all else to keep you safe.

Our group of 8 (minus the photographer)ready to go.

The Hikers
On the first day our walk was a mere 7 km but it had my chest burning. Altitude is quite an adjustment for us Capetonians and the heat was right up there. But the excitement of our hike beginning kept us all smiling. Our first river crossing was very exciting. Shoes off. And stepping only where you are told. The threat of hippos is the primary one. The guides are VERY cautious and strict about staying together in single file. As we reach the opposite bank we stop to dry off and watch as a herd of elephant come down to drink. It is beautiful but I was glad to have the river between us and the herd! We keep dead still and enjoy moms and babies cooling down until the matriarch catches our sent. One sharp trumpet and the entire herd race away. Just proving that when faced with “flight or fight” animals usually flee.

Piet suggests we push on to a favourite spot of his. Because of the warm weather we want to cover a bit more on day one than leave the bulk of the walking for the next day. Still charged up we all agree. We arrive at the spot which is like a scene from paradise. Each couple finding a spot close to a guy carrying a Rifle! Guides must feel a special kind of love.

Then it is time to collect wood and start a small fire. Not to much wood as everything must look the way you find it when you leave the next morning.

Bathing is quite the experience although pretty cold, it is very refreshing. You are never allowed in water deeper than knee high and it must be flowing. The guides watch over you, rifle in hand. Don’t worry ladies you can keep your kit on. Kind of washing yourself and your clothes at the same time. (Biodegradable soap of course!)
Then when you get out you can change into dry clothes and hang your wet ones out. If it is not dry by morning I found hooking it on to the backpack ensures it is dry in a matter of minutes once you hit the trail.

That night we cooked our steak and marvelled at where we were and how privileged we felt to be here. Then as if just for us, fireflies appeared over the water giving us a show and a memory to cherish forever. This is the real Kruger.

Initially getting into a two-man tent is very awkward. My kingsized bed seemed a century away and I wondered if I would ever fall asleep squashed up with hubby. Then we hear a lion roaring in the distance and I am pretty grateful that he is in this small space with me! I remember thinking this is so impossibly uncomfortable I will never fall asleep and the next minute the guide is waking us up for our morning departure. (Couldn’t have been that uncomfortable after all!)

Join me next month as our adventure continues on The Olifants Backpack Trail Day 2 -Day 4

This is the Real Kruger

 

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Project Dragonfleye working together with Shadowview in conservation

Dragonfleye On behalf of the Shadowview Foundation, we have been working in South Africa for the last two months to develop an anti-poaching multicopter drone as well as training rangers in the Kruger National Park into operating drones. After a week of constructing the drones, we went to a Private Game Reserve near Kruger Park to start the first training period as well as testing our prototype drone. This prototype consisted of an infrared camera that can be used at night by rangers on patrol in search of poachers. During this period, we successfully trained different people into operating multicopters as well as getting a lot of feedback on what our prototype needed to improve on. We had more than enough to work on when we would get back.
On our way back from Kruger Park, we passed Hazyview to stay with The Goodwork Foundation for a few days. This Foundation consists of a technical education centre that gives schools from rural areas around Hazyview an introduction to all sorts of technology. During a period of three days, we gave interactive presentations as well as demonstrations to classes from different schools around Hazyview. Introducing the poaching problem to these children was very important to us, as well as showing them the drone in action. Some of them had never seen themselves on screen before, so this lead to some interesting reactions!
During the following weeks, we started improving the prototype to the needs of the ranger. We found that the drone has to work as autonomously as possible which meant that the prototype underwent a whole metamorphoses. After two weeks of intense testing, we concluded with a successful demonstration at Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary, where we showed the advantage that a ranger can have over a poacher using this technology. We believe to have built a drone that has unmatched specifications and is ready to put to work. The system consists of a low-budget infrared camera, a function in which the drone will follow the operator autonomously and has a flight endurance of over half an hour, which is plenty for a Rapid Response Drone. The drone can be set to fly on GPS waypoints, which means that it can fly over a series of geographically pinpointed locations autonomously. It is also fairly light, small enough to fit on a backpack and easy to operate as it can take off and land on itself.
Because of this progress, we are now setting up a demonstration with some interested Game Reserves. We also have a demonstrative video which explains the process of how the drone works at night. After the demonstration, we will visit different parks to educate more rangers into operating multicopter drones.

Link to Infrared Demonstration:

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Paul Kruger Statue

Paul Kruger StatuePaul Kruger Statue sits outside the Paul Kruger gate, commonly known as Kruger Gate.  But who was Paul Kruger? Why does he have his own statue?

Paul Kruger – the father of conservation in South Africa.  Paul Kruger – the founder of the Kruger Natuonal Park

Paul Kruger was born October 1825, growing up in the veld – an accomplished marksman and an expert in bush craft. Durning one of his hunts his gun exploded and blew off his left thumb which never affected his proficiency with a rifle. Both his first wife and child died of malaria, his second wife however gave him 16 children, some sadly also dying at birth.

In 1877 he stood for the presidency of Transvaal and was elected in December 1880. As an ardent hunter in his youth he soon realized the urgent need to protect the fast diminishing wildlife. And Pongola (present day Shingwedzi) Reserve was finally proclaimed June 1894. Boundaries were agreed upon and in 1899 the birth of Sabie Game Reserve was establish – and therefore indirectly the Kruger National Park. However with the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, the lowveld became a battlefield, with the Sabie Game Reserve taking the blunt of the fighting.  Both sides using the area for rations and the killing of animals continued.   Hostilities finally ended in May 1902 and the crucial task was to appoint someone who could take control of the Reserve and eradicate the killing of the animals.

In 1902 James Stevenson Hamilton was appointed head ranger, and between wars, farmers and gold miners James Stevenson Hamilton and Paul Kruger fought to establish a national park in interests of the country and preserving of wildlife. Finally in 1926 Minister Grobler tabled the National Parks bill, being seconded by General Jan Smuts and the reserve Kruger National Park was accepted unanimously.

The statue of Paul Kruger was commissioned and erected outside Paul Kruger Gate. The statue was unveiled in 1976 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the park.  And will forever remind us the crucial role Paul Kruger had in establishing and founding our beloved Kruger Park as we know it today.

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Mellissa Bushby Recipes and cookbooks

For a treat while in Kruger.  Make sure you download some of the fresh and exciting recipes Mellisa shares here with us or on her cookbooks available for purchase online. Mellissa BushbyFresh from the Vegetarian Kitchen is her second cookbook. – See more at: http://www.randomstruik.co.za/about-the-author.php?authorID=5792&imprintID=3#sthash.tdI4zqZn.dpuf

 

This illustrated cookbook features over 100 delicious vegetarian and lactose-free meals and is aimed at anyone who wants to eat meat-free, whether it’s once a week, for a month or for life. The simple, healthy and wholesome recipes include soups, hearty main meals, easy-to-bake breads and delectable desserts. The vegetarian kitchen includes a comprehensive introduction to vegetarian and dairy-free cooking, as well as some background information on lactose intolerance and how to stock a vegan pantry. You will be inspired by the food photography, as well as by Mellissa’s illustrations and easy-to-prepare recipes as she leads you on an appetising journey through her kitchen to a healthier way of eating and enjoying food

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