Our first full day in the Park! I woke before my alarm went off. Strange phenomenon that when you are in the city, the snooze button gets croaky after it’s been hit about five times before you finally get to open just one eye.
Day was graying outside and it seemed that the cool weather affects the birds too, as it was very quiet. From afar, I heard the final whoop of the hyena, calling it a day, or rather a night. The first chirps came shyly after that and a few minutes later, having warmed the vocal cords, a Heuglin’s robin burst into joyous song. On cue, the Purplecrested Lourie sputtered a few indignant “kok-kok’s” and a mate replied full heartedly. How good it felt to have dawn filled with a choir of birds and a day stretched in front of us with nothing else to do but just to BE.
I know that Jubatus is going to kill me, but I need to impart that she is a formidable chef amongst many of her incredible qualities (which excludes haggling over bird sightings…). Thus as it goes with being in Kruger, people (like me) who never really bother with breakfast, get hungry and munchie attacks the second they open their eyes. I leave you with this palatable photo and say this; Ainsley, eat your heart out…
Our route takes us on the S114. At Renosterkoppies dam, the plains game are walking in their treaded paths to the water. Opposite to the water hole, a comatose lion lies with his paws in the air to bake his fat stomach in the morning rays. The impalas and zebras approach gingerly, keeping an eye on the lazy king, yet they drink as if they know that somehow, his agile sprinting is not up to scratch today.
I must confess at this point that I was a bit lazy to really do any “serious” photography on this day, as I just wanted to feel
Kruger and not focus – as puns go – on anything in particular. Being a summer visitor to Kruger, especially September-October, December and autumn April, the first thing that I noticed was the different behaviour of birds. Obviously not displaying, the ones which are visible, look a bit drab in comparison to their colourful summer foliage and they were really not very vocal. I suppose it’s a personal thing, but my bird watching is greatly enhanced by calls. So, it was a new set of rules for me in winter, and some extra effort was required to do some spotting. In abundance, the Forktailed drongo and a little bird that reminded me of a famous Forumite mod…The raptors were also more visible, perhaps because they weren’t nesting in the dense trees as in summer time.
We left the visible snoring lion and those who only showed face for second, and traveled onwards to Mpondo dam. At the dam, there was quite an array of animals, kudu, waterbuck, impala, and zebra. Not many waterbirds though – a lone Grey heron and a few Blacksmith plovers. We took the road towards the S26 and as we circled the dam, we found an impala in the small spruit below the dam wall. What we could see was the head and a piece of its neck. We were speculating that the hyenas could be hiding it in the water to eat it later.
The S26 yielded very little animal sightings, but the trees and shrubs were surprisingly green for this time of year, and this area made quite a contrast to the rest of the wintry display we had seen so far. We traveled back to the H4-2 and then to the S137, hoping for a slim chance to maybe spot Duke. We were treated to a sighting of a sleeping white rhino who’s breathing made small clouds of dust on the red soil. At Duke's water hole, quite a lot of Zebra and Wildebeest were drinking and a Wattled plover was running circles around them. The bird hide had a number of families with young children and it was heartening to see how dads and mums were explaining about the hippo’s and terrapins. We did not stay long, as the hide was rather packed. Back on the H4-2, we spotted our first ellie and also quite a lot of ostriches – about six in total – giraffe and a few buffies.
Stopover at Lower Sabie – boy it was packed! One could hardly move in the shop and the queue was long. Sunset dam was rather quiet too. All the pachyderms seemed to be in a state of half-hibernation. The hippo’s were lying with pink bellies in the sun and some of the biggest crocs I had seen amongst them. I am sure that one of them will soon qualify to be the stand-in for the Loch Ness monster…
We took a loop road on the H4-1 and stopped to watch the antics of a baboon family. These ouks are much better than the ones I meet on the street corners on my way to work, save the “I have six kids and….” boards, they will beg the milk out of your coffee. We hardly stopped and the little baboons tried to scale the canopy of the bakkie. The funny part was the glass which dumbfolded them, they wiped it, licked it and tried to bite it and soon slid off the bumper when they lost their footing.
We stopped at Nkuhlu for late afternoon tea and decided on a spot close to the river. As soon as we put down our tea basket, we were “approached” by a real mean looking male baboon and we literally swiped our basket away from him. Luckily the attendant saw this and he was chased away quickly. What a perfect ending to our day – tea in the bush, with a river gurgling beside us and Glossy Starlings gossiping above us in the canopy of a Jackalberry tree.