Thursday, September 6, 2012

Since we arrived in South Africa we seem to have spent most days in National Parks looking at/for animals!!! It all began in Mafeking where we stayed in a game reserve for several days, trying to get an extension to our visas to enable us to stay here for more than 3 months. The paperwork is in and we await the results!! We will be informed by text message, so let’s hope it comes in time to give us a chance to get out of the country if it is refused!!! We can’t believe that we have been here a month already!!

Pilansberg National Park, a park created about 30 years ago….the farmers were evicted and the animals all shipped in from other parks. It certainly seems to have worked well, with great hides, magnificent views and abundant wildlife including birds. It is only about 2 hours drive from Johannesburg and apparently is a popular place to camp at week-ends [we didn’t stay long enough to find out!]

We saw some brilliant hippos, fantastic elephants, tall giraffes, lovely kingfishers, cormorants, darters, and a rhino resting at the top of a hill about 3 yards from the truck!! Also, in the peace and quiet of a viewing hide we met a bunch of oil rig workers from Newcastle upon Tyne! Apparently they have been down here on the rigs for 5 months and this was only their 2nd day off.

We then drove over wonderful mountains to Tzaneen where we camped by a lake with some good boating entertainment and a few birds. Michael also caught up with an old college friend and we had a very pleasant Sunday lunch with Alan and his wife Ann.

Off then to Kruger. What an enormous park it is…the size of Wales!!! 414ks from north to south!! In addition it is linked directly to National Parks in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe, making it HUGE. Our first campsite gave us fantastic viewings of elephant at their water hole; a family arrived, from the big old “tusker” to a small baby elephant. It was great to see how they interacted and how the small ones were protected by their bigger brothers and sisters. They are incredible creatures…so strong and yet so gentle. We also had great fun watching elephants at a waterhole where they splashed about in the water, created mud which they then plastered all over themselves…apparently it keeps them cool and stops irritating insects!! When they came out of the water they covered themselves with dust…to give another layer of protection!! Although we had been told that the northern half of the park had fewer animals and we would probably not see any game our list comprised more elephants than we could count, a herd of 200 buffalo [plus several other sizable groups], giraffe, huge quantities of hippos, most of the antelope family, jackal; and wildebeest. Highlight, though, of the animals was a small family of Klipspringers, dad, mum and child. They were just outside the viewing hide, so close that you felt you could reach out and touch them. Magic.

 The birdlife in the park we find difficult. There are very few places where you can get out of the truck so this means that it is difficult to get close enough to study many birds. But there are plenty of birds about – they are just difficult for us to identify. One bird we didn’t find difficult was a little Scops owl that was sitting in a tree in the camp-site.
Camping in the park is all highly organised whilst at the same time, highly disorganised! The sites are well provided with electricity, water, ablution blocks, washing machines and even tumble dryers in some cases. Defining what is a powered site or a non-powered site is much more difficult, however. Basically, in the middle of the camping area are a number of power points, none of which is it easy to park alongside, so, as far as one can tell, you camp and if you want power you hook up and if you don’t want power, you don’t. Problem is that when you come to book a site there are never any non powered sites available! In the campsite there are plenty of spaces but the computer tells the little girl that there are no un-powered sites. On one occasion we were not even told that there were no un-powered sites, we were just charged the powered rate! On recounting this to someone they just shrugged their shoulders and said T.I.A. “This is Africa” it was explained.

We are just about to go back and “do” the southern half of the park and see if we can get a really good, close up of a lion. Wish us luck.

There are some more photos in the photo section above and the map has been updated.

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