Friday, 3 June, 2011
Semi-Civilization: Talamati to Letaba Rest Camp

I got up at 6:20, went to the hide for sunrise, and then walked the fence line. Monkeys and impala were the only movement besides my own. Our relatively late start today was on purpose, so everyone could rest a bit and we wouldn't have to rush as we packed the car and left Talamati for the last time. Still, we all were up by 7:00 and headed out the gate at 8:20.

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Vervet monkeys, early in the morning

Our route: S145, S36, S39, Timbavati Picnic Spot, Sasol-Ratelpan Hide, continuing S39, S89, S90 south to Bangu waterhole and then north, S91, H1-5, S46, S94 to Letaba Rest Camp.

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My favorite ferns

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Cape glossy starling

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Africa



Impala

Tons of game this morning, most of the usual suspects - elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, baboons, warthogs, kudus, impalas, and other antelope - and a few newbies, such as the kori bustard, one of the world's heaviest flying birds. Some say it is THE heaviest flying bird, but I have no opinion. In any case, it was only walking when we saw it.

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A dazzle of zebras

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A journey of giraffes

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Kori bustard

Sasol-Ratelpan Hide overlooks a waterhole on the Timbavati River surrounded with lush vegetation, giraffes, enormous crocodiles, and hippos.

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Well-fed crocodile

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A bloat of hippos at Ratelpan

Had there been any traffic, Tom might have caused an accident swerving out of the way and slamming on the brakes when he spied a chameleon crossing the road. It was certainly taking its sweet time. Apparently, it was trying to mimic a leaf blowing in the wind. I took photos, but you have to see Tom's video to understand.

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Flap-necked chameleon



Stayin' Alive!

We took an unnamed loop off the S39 down to the almost dry Timbavati River, near the Roodewal Bush Lodge, and were rewarded with a striking pair of saddle-billed storks, the tallest of the various storks.

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Saddle-billed storks at the Roodewal Waterhole

Just before we crossed the Oliphants River, a large cat crossed right in front of our car. It moved so fast and was so unexpected that it eluded not just our cameras, but also any positive identification. Tom and I saw a lioness, but Linda saw a leopard. We all agreed on one thing: Big Cat. It was out of sight so quickly it was almost like a dream.

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Oliphants River

The N'wamanzi Lookout affords an expansive view over the Oliphants River, where we saw elephants, hippos, crocs, buffalo, waterbucks, impala, and a close-up view of vervet monkeys. You can alight from you vehicle at your own risk, but you better guard your things. A guy arriving right after us had his door open for only a second before a monkey jumped in and stole his nuts!

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Thieving monkey

At 3:30 p.m. we arrived at Letaba Rest Camp, our home for the next two nights. As we checked in, they immediately saw that Linda had not yet paid her daily conservation fees, at which point they quickly processed her credit card, and that was that. Fifth time's a charm!

By the way, I checked Letaba's ATM during our stay, and it was out of service, apparently its normal state. This was the only ATM we came across in Kruger. Just a reminder that it's vital to carry plenty of rand when visiting Kruger, as all petrol in South Africa must be paid in cash, and there is no reliable source to replenish your cash while you are in the park! (The exception is if you are South African, in which case you may pay for petrol with a garage card.)

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Our second Kruger camp

Nicely situated on the Letaba River, Letaba Rest Camp is one of the largest camps in Kruger National Park. After the peace and solitude of Talamati, I've been dreading coming here, but I admit it's a lovely camp. Plus, we thought it would be good to break up our self-catering nights with a couple of days at a camp with a restaurant and a store where we could replenish our provisions.

The view of the river from camp is fantastic, and much wildlife can be viewed at the river and even inside of the fence. We're in guest cottage 109, which has two bedrooms with three beds each, two bathrooms, a kitchen, large living room, and a large stoep overlooking the river. It's very, very nice, and way more than we need.

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Our cottage at Talamati

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Cottage stoep

We had a snack after check-in, then Tom and I spent sunset walking along the path from our cottage to the restaurant at the far end of camp, watching the elephants, hippos, kudus, and impala in the river below. Inside the fence perimeter, we observed monkeys, bushbucks, and guineafowl.

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Waterbuck

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Inside Letaba

Tonight we ate in the restaurant. Linda had fish and chips, and Tom and I split a bacon cheeseburger with chips and a one-person pizza topped with venison wors (sausage), bacon, rump steak, onion, and barbecue sauce, washed down with Castle beers. Very good.

Before dinner, we went into the shop, where we still could not purchase the Kruger map and guidebook that we've been seeking and that's allegedly available everywhere. I bought a few snack foods, and Linda got some souvenirs.

Pretty warm today, high of 90 degrees.

Continue to June 4, 2011

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