South Africa Part 1

Community Highlights Africa & The Middle East South Africa Part 1

Tuesday 2nd July

This morning, we were up early to begin our tour through South Africa. We travelled 530 km today, which is nothing for us Aussies.

We headed off at 6.30 am but before we departed we had a familiarisation of the vehicle we will be travelling in.

We said farewell to Johannesburg - “The City of Gold”. Our journey took us through the outskirts of the capital – Pretoria. We were glad to be heading out of town based on the traffic.

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We then saw a variety of scenery for the rest of the day. The first part was quite arid.

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Then suddenly there were plantations of pine, avocados, macadamias and citrus.

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Driving through one of the towns we saw the contrast of shops from KFC to a roadside stall, right next to each other.

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We stopped for lunch in the historic gold mining village of Haenertsburg.

After lunch we descended into the Magoebaskloof, a spectacular lush mountainous area presided over by the Rain Queen – Modjadi. There were lots of banana plantations.
The last stretch of our journey today took us into the Greater Kruger – world renowned for its protected natural environment and vast free-ranging animal populations.

Lot of wildlife signs. A bit different from the ones in Oz.

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We then arrived at the gate of the game reserve. We had 15 kms to travel to get to Andy's Camp which is our lodge for the next 2 nights.

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This is our home for the next 18 days. There are only 3 of us but it seats 16, so we have plenty of room.

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We had a braai which is the equivalent of our BBQ.

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We then settled into our tent for the night. A few rustling sounds outside but we slept really well.

Wednesday 3rd July

From Andy’s Camp we explored the wilderness in an open game drive vehicle in search of a variety of animals.

We rose early and had a light breakfast of fresh coffee and rusks (a traditional South African biscuit), before embarking on our morning safari.

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We were up early enough to see a lovely sunrise.

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It was pretty cold when we set off.

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We were so lucky to see a variety of animals.

Elephants, including a herd of mothers and babies. We were so close you could hear them ripping the shrubs apart.

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Impalas both male and female.

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Kudu, both male and female

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Giraffe

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Steenbok

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Tree Squirrel

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Common Duiker

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The highlight was seeing the Rhino with her baby at the waterhole. These days due to poaching, they remove their horns. They grow back, so this is the best way to save the Rhino.

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We also got to see lots of lovely birds.
Crowned Lapwing

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Duck Chanting Gosh Hawk

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Grey Go Away

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Hammer Kop

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Helmeted Guinea Fowl

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Longtail Shrike

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Red Hornbill

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Yellow Hornbill

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Our vehicle.

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Before the heat of the day set in, we returned to the lodge for a scrumptious brunch, after which it was time to relax around the lodge and enjoy the serenity of the surrounding wilderness. A nearby waterhole attracted a variety of birds and wildlife that came to quench their thirst. First the zebras, kudu and impala arrived.

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Then we were lucky enough to see an elephant come for a drink.

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With the heat subsiding in the late afternoon, we embarked again in search of the nocturnal animals that come out after dark. As dusk approached, we pulled over and enjoyed a sundowner drink. Also note I have my safari clothes on, so I blend into the wilderness.

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We watched the magnificent sun setting over the African bushveld.

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Then the callout came across the radio that a pride of female lions had been spotted, so off we raced to see them.

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We retired to bed whilst listening to a symphony of sounds from the African Bush, including noisy lions.

Thursday 4th July

Rising with the African sun, a hearty breakfast was enjoyed before setting off in our faithful truck to climb the escarpment and explore the many natural wonders and viewing points in this incredibly scenic region on the Panorama Route.

We have seen plenty of warthogs running around, but none stand still long enough for us to photograph.

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We stopped in the town of Hoedspruit, their town sign has them standing proudly on top.

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We then headed towards the Northern Drakensburg Mountain Range. We had already seen the Southern Mountain Range when we visited Lesotho.

We then slowly climbed up the mountain range.

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Our first stop was to view the impressive Blyde River Canyon – the world’s largest “Green Canyon”.
However in size it is the third largest in the world.
This is the Three Rondavels.

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Other views around the river.

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After viewing the canyon, we continued on to Bourke's Luck Potholes. These are holes worn out of the rocks from the converging of 2 rivers.

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We stopped for lunch literally on the edge of the escarpment which offered the most incredible views over the entire Lowveld.

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The restaurant had a chameleon which was cute but only about 5 inches long.

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We arrived at Greenfire Lodge Hazyview, a log cabin built spectacularly on stilts in the indigenous forest on the banks of the impressive Sabie River or “Fearful River” as dubbed by the locals.

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We then took a walk around and watched the sun set.

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Friday 5th July

Waking with the birds at 4.30am, we had coffee and rusks and travelled a short distance to enter the southern sector of Kruger National Park for a full day of game viewing. We entered through Phabeni Gate.

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Our sunrise view.

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Driving slowly through this iconic National Park - the size of Israel or Wales, we spent the day in search of the many animal inhabitants. Wow what day. Certainly a highlight so far. WARNING - Animal Overload.

We spent the day on our truck so we were up nice and high, which was very beneficial when there were so many cars around at times.
One of the first stops was a big herd of buffalo crossing the road in front of us. The males have the big thick fronts to their horns.

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We then saw a Bushbuck

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A Steenbok

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Blue Wilderbeest

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We finally got to see some warthogs grazing. You could see why they were called warthogs, because of the lumps on their faces. We were also amazed by the birds that sat on alot of the animals, eating ticks and fleas.

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Beautiful Plains Zebras

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A lovely Giraffe encounter.

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Again the birds were getting a feed whilst riding on the giraffes. These birds are Red-billed Oxpecker.

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We stopped for a break at Skukaza. There were lots of Vervet Monkeys.

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We then headed for Lower Sabie, which followed the Sabie River. This was where we were to see alot of the wildlife.
Greater Kudu

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Nyala

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Our first elephant encounter, was wonderful. We watched a big herd of elephants drinking at the river.

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Then walking through to the other side.

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They then rolled in the sand.

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We then saw Buffalo by the river.

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The most seen animal today was the Impala. They were everywhere.

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Some of the scenery along the river.

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Our first Hippopotamus encounter was from the bridge. It was a mother with 2 babies, sun bathing on the sand. There was also a couple more hippos in the water.

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Then our next elephant encounter, which had the elephants in the bush right beside the road.

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We stopped to watch the Chacma Baboons playing.

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Our last elephant encounter before lunch was watching them drink at the river, before they wandered right up to us beside the road.

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We then came to a waterhole with hippos bathing and sun bathing.

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There were also Impalas drinking close by.

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Just before lunch we came to another waterhole, where again we saw lots of hippos, but this time there were even crocodiles sunning theirselves.

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We watched the Impalas get very close to the crocodiles.

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We stopped for lunch at Lower Sabie then headed back along the same road hoping to see more animals.
We came across a traffic jam and knew something big must be ahead. Low and behold there was a lion walking on the road right beside the cars.

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He then sprayed a bush to mark his territory.

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He then headed into the bush.

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We also saw lots of the same animals we had seen before lunch, resting in the heat of the day.

Nearer the end of our journey we saw elephants in a dry creek bed. They can smell water and were digging for it. We watched them dig and to our surprise we watched them drinking.

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Throughout our journey today, we were lucky enough to see quite a few birds.

Bateleur

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Greater Blue-eared Starling

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Lilac-breasted Roller

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African Fish Eagle

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Cape Starling

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African Pied Wagtail

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Egyptian Goose

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Pied Kingfisher

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Later in the afternoon we exited the Park and returned to the lodge.

Saturday 6th July

This morning, we passed through the provincial capital Mbombela (Nelspruit).
We stopped for a break and came across the big icecream. It was really funny, all the locals were laughing at us trying to set the photo up. One man walked over laughing and gave me a fist pump.

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We then headed to the border crossing of Oshoek on the South African side.
Upon arrival there was a big queue of trucks, but luckily we could bypass that queue and headed straight to the front.

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After all the formalities we entered the Kingdom of eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland). It is a small landlocked country, rich in culture and natural beauty.

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Set in stunning mountain countryside, Foresters Arms Hotel is a short, scenic drive from the capital, Mbabane. It dates back to the colonial days.
It lies amongst eucalyptus plantations.

Sunday 7th July

Happy Birthday Shane. It was a memorable day. Today we left Foresters Arms and headed out of the eucalyptus and pine plantations.

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Further down the mountain was a big mill.

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We followed winding roads south through the Swazi countryside and stopped to visit a candle factory and markets.

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At the markets was a special shop called Amarasti. Amarasti is a small company producing a vast range of hand made products in the Kingdom of Eswatini ” Swaziland “. Its operation allows the empowerment of some 40 women many from the rural areas. The casual wages they earn contributes to the uplifting of their families and puts much needed food on the table. It was nice to be able to buy some items to help support them.

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As we continued our drive, we enjoyed the scenery and all the locals going about their daily business.

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Closer to the border, they were growing bananas, pineapples and sugar cane.

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There were Black Headed Herons in a field.

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There were lots of trucks transporting sugar cane.

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We then arrived at the border post of Lavumisa to depart the Kingdom of eSwatini.

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After completing the border formalities, we entered Zululand, a part of modern-day KwaZulu-Natal, and home to South Africa’s largest ethnic group - the Zulu people. Formed in the early 1800’s into the most powerful regional empire by King Shaka Zulu, the Zulus influenced a large part of southern Africa.

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The scenery changed.

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Shortly after the border we stopped for lunch.

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Our journey continued to the bustling coastal town of St Lucia where we will spend the next 2 nights.

This featured blog entry was written by shaneandnicola from the blog South Africa and Namibia.
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By shaneandnicola

Posted Sun, Jul 07, 2024 | South Africa | Comments