Part 2: First Ever African Safari

Part 2
On our last evening at Punda Maria we had a night drive and saw a magnificent chameleon. It was quite a damp evening so unfortunately there wasn’t much else out and about for us to see.

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The morning of our departure was also wet. We came across some vervet monkeys who seemed very agitated. A little further on was the reason for their distress – a hyena.

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We waited for Ms Millipede to get to the other side of the soggy road. Ms is a guess by the way!

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Morning tea was at Babalala Picnic spot. It was still drizzly and very sombre. Nevertheless there was an albino magpie shrike and some noisy yellow billed hornbills to watch while munching on rusks.

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A little way away from Babalala along the S56 the rain cleared and the sun came out. We saw quite a few squirrels along the way enjoying a reprieve from the rain.

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I liked the rocky outcrops and scrubby vegetation along this road. According to our map it is Mopane/Bushwillow woodlands on granite. I had a sense I was being watched by predators unseen but failed to get a glimpse of any. There was a young elephant some distance from the road but we didn’t notice it until it trumpeted as we idled by. We all got the giggles – it took us by surprise and three of us had never heard anything like it.

We wound for a long time along the river, stopping at many of the viewpoints. However we didn’t see much until we were quite close to Shingwedze. Elephants won the day. We waited awestruck as a huge herd of at least 40 elephants crossed the road ahead of us.

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Back on the main road we came upon another large herd. It was a short drive to the bridge and we were pleased to alight. The view from the bridge was marvellous; turtles, hippopotamus, a buffalo, a saddle billed stork and spoonbills. This is where we met Viking for the first time I think. My daughter also composed a ditty entitled “Happy Hippo” which stuck with us for the rest of the trip and beyond.

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Whilst strolling around the Shingwedze camp ground we came across a group of grumpy monkeys. They were harassing a giant eagle owl in a tree. Much to our delight the owl decided that we might be less irksome company than the monkeys and plopped down on the ground beside us.

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This immature hoopoe looked at us quizzically.

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From Shingwedze we set off south-west along the H1-6 then the S144. The vegetation, labelled on our map as Mopane shrubveld gradually opened up to vaster expanses of grassland. I quite like spiders….from a distance. Their webs are magnificent…when viewed from the car.

 photo c5a5c687-f881-4eb4-8a34-1f10adb2529e_zps26469369.jpg photo Spider_zps6fb7cc5d.jpg

We dallied a while at Tihongonyeni drinking point. Here we watched a large herd of wildebeest, zebras, warthogs and Egyptian geese.
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 photo Zebras_zps9d743f59.jpg

There was a set of elephant bones including its huge skull, a buoy on the gently rolling sea of grass.

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Further along were ostriches and more elephants.

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We reached Mopani in the heat of the day and it was welcome relief to sit in the shade with cool drinks overlooking the lake.

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The road to Olifants S93 seemed to have herbivores at every bend including several giraffes, an impala with an oxpecker and a grysbok. Finally an eagle who seemed a bit grumpy with us. I think it is a tawny eagle.
 photo Giraffe_doubles_zps151bfa0c.jpg  photo Impala_takes_flight_with_oxpecker_on_board_zps9b65c246.jpg  photo Grysbok_zpsbab85d56.jpg  photo Grumpyeagle_zps55497ee8.jpg

Watching the sun set from the lookout at Olifant’s was magical. I looked across the bend in the river to the bushy plain and saw giraffes browsing in the distance. The bush and river stones took on a golden halo. The river, in contrast, sparkled with a silvery light. This is a memory to treasure.

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