We stayed at Roodewal Bush Lodge for 5 nights and most of our drives were along the S39. We also drove down to Satara on to N'Wanetsi picnic site via the S100. Also up to Olifants and Letaba and Phalaborwa gate (a quick shopping trip) and the main road between Orpen and Satara (2 x going in and going out of the Park).
It was unbelievably hot! Thunderstorm last night cooled things down and it was very overcast this morning with threatening rain.
The areas we travelled through looked very good. It looked as if there has been rain. The veld is green and lush. Olifants looks better than we have ever seen it, but bear in mind that we mostly visit in autumn, winter and spring. We are not regular summer visitors and it is therefore difficult to say how it compares with previous summers. The river along which the S100 runs seems to have good water in the many pools. We were also surprised by a large pool and mud holes in the veld on the S100 where we saw a herd of elephant splashing and rolling about. I thought we wouldn't see too many animals on this road from remarks made on the forum. However, we saw the usual stuff we have always seen on this road although not in the abudant numbers we have grown used to.
The main road from N'Wanetsi was a surprise. We saw a lot along it, which we didn't expect.
The road between Letaba and Phalaborwa was a surprise. We have never seen too much there, but this time we saw plains animals in large numbers, elephants, buffalo and lion. It also looks as if there has been good rain in the area.
Lion: 6 sightings of which 3 were on the S39 (road between Roodewal and the Timbavati picnic site). 1 on the same road, but close to the Goedgegun waterhole before reaching Roodewal. We also saw a female drinking water at the Rockvale waterhole (S36) on the road to the Muzandzani picnic site. The most interesting sighting was of 3 lionesses with 3 cubs at the Sable dam close to the Phalaborwa gate. We watched as two buffaloes wallowed in mud close to where the lionesses were. One lioness showed some interest as the first buffalo turned on its back in the mud, but after weighing the odds of success, she decided against an attack (it seemed).
Leopard: We had a great sighting of a young male on the S39 between Roodewal and the Timbavati picnic site on a sunset drive.
Rhino: 6 sightings, 4 of which were on the S39 between Roodewal and the Timbavati picnic site. We have never had so many sightings. On one occasion we saw 5 together (on our sunset drive).
Wild dog: At last! we saw 3 lying next to the road about 3 - 4 km from Orpen on our way out this morning. What a thrill! After so many years (about 15) of visiting the Park up to three times a year for a week each time, we have had success.
Hyena: 3 sightings, all on the S39 between Roodewal and the Timbavati picnic site.
Elephant: Lots and lots of sightings. On our first day coming in from Orpen, we saw Alexander grazing at the dam between Orpen and Satara. A sign of things to come on this incredible trip. We saw many large herds of females with babies. We also saw a herd of around 10 - 12 elephants, all males (I have never seen so many together before) snorkelling in Sable dam, playing with each other like young men on a boozing spree. We saw a pink baby elephant grazing with a large herd along the Olifants river. We thought that it was a newborn, but it used its trunk too well for that. Very strange.
Giraffe: Never seen so many. They were everywhere. We saw lots on the S39 every time we drove along the road between Roodewal camp and the Timbavati picnic site. We also saw lots and lots around Satara and Letaba.
Kudu: Never seen so many on one trip. Lots of males with large horns (mostly close on 3 turns) as well as a stunning male with horns going into a fourth turn.
Birds: We saw 3 Woolly-necked storks at Ngotso Dam on the way to Olifants on the main road. We also saw a lot of Kori Bustard, secretary birds (one flew across the main road and landed on the other side - looked like a boeing landing on a very long strip!), lots of saddlebilled storks, goliath herons, ostrich (lots), two martial eagles fighting in the sky (locked claws, turning - beautiful and very exciting), 3 ground hornbill sightings, 2 double banded sandgrouse sightings, open billed stork, fish eagle, bateleur, tawny eagles, wahlberg's eagles and brown snake eagles. We also saw 4 giant eagle owls. There were also lots of european and whitefronted bee-eaters around as well as flocks of carmine bee-eaters which were stunning to see. There were also flocks of wattled starlings. We also saw lots of paradise wyhdahs. Brownheaded parrots seemed to be everywhere and we were lucky enough to still see redbilled buffalo weavers although there were not many. Also saw the other usual species that one generally expects to encounter.
Buffalo: Only on 1 other trip have I seen as many herds of buffalo. Yesterday, we had 6 sightings in one day, of which about 3 were in the Phalaborwa area, which surprised me. Most of the sightings were at Satara, Letaba and Olifants, although we did see buffalo on the S39 between the main road and Roodewal camp.
Miscellaneous: Lots of bushbuck, impala, zebra, gnu, waterbuck, crocodiles, hippo, steenbok, duiker, oribi, slender and pygmy mongoose, vervet monkey and baboon (lots and lots of these - more than we've ever seen before) and more warthogs (one of my favorites) than we've ever seen on a trip before. Jackal were scarce although we had 1 sighting on the S39. We also saw leopard tortoise (2) and water terrapin.
Roodewal camp: From the camp we saw a herd of elephant, a lone bull elephant, a resident bushbuck daily, the resident troupe of baboons daily, the resident troupe of vervet monkeys (broke into our car once), lots of birds and tree squirrels, a giant eagle owl and genet. A black mamba found its way into one of our cottages with tree squirrels going beserk (never knew they could make such a noise). With several prayers in panic, the resident staff were called and they dispatched the poor mamba. It soon disappeared from where it was lying dead in the sun, no doubt a welcome meal for something- I cannot even begin to imagine what.
All in all, this was probably our best trip ever and we've had great ones before. The wild dogs made all the difference! (But then, so many lions, buffs and rhinos, pink elephants, fighting eagles, woolly-necked storks, black mambas in bedrooms, sleeping giraffes!) It wasn't only the wild dogs. It was everything. Roodewal is a wonderful place. We spent 6 days in paradise.