AV-TR Day 7 & 8 - out at Orpen
Day 7 on the way to Red Rocks produced a family of 5 Hyena, a breeding pair of Eagle Owls – we sat listening to their early morning goodnight calls, troop of Baboons, another herd of Ellies, 6 Njalas, Koedoes, Impies, Zebs, Giraffe, another breeding herd of Ellies, Giant Eagle Owl with a catch, an Ellie wearing a collar, a beautiful Sharps Grysbokkie up close and Brown headed Kingfisher.
We saw an Ellie with rather large tusks that I videoed the previous day acting strangely. Up walks a contender for his space and the standoff begins. We spent about an hour watching the scratching/digging in tandem with their feet and then picking up some of the dirt and squirting each other. They were standing so close to us and to each other that you could hear their flapping ears hitting each other. We left because it just got too hot in the vehicle and nature called as well. Close to the camp on the tar road we saw another sand digging Ellie and then three female Lions with 5 cubs and the obvious traffic jam.
We decided to spend a quiet afternoon in the camp to regain our strength for the long road home the following day.
Picture this, we had to drive from Shingwedzi via Mopanie, Lethaba, pop in at Olifants to pick up the tripod, Satara and out at Orpen. Now, I’m used to driving at around 10 – 15 k/h in the park so I was speeding at 30 k/h all the way to Orpen. I’m just going to list what we saw to those that are still reading all this and then try to describe the highlight of the trip.
On the tar road between Shingwedzi and Orpen on our last day we saw:-
Fish Eagle, 6 Heyena, 2 Steenbokkies, family of White Helmet Shrikes, 6 Buffs, pair of Kori Bustard, Waterbuck, another large herd of Buffs near Mooiplaas, Bateleur Eagle, Mopanies breeding herd of Ellies again, 1 magnificant Kudu bull with 5 females, single Ellie bull, another very large herd of Buffs and Zebs at Middelvlei dam, 4 Ground Hornbills, 2 Ellie bulls and a smaller herd (about 30) Buffs.
Close to Lethaba some Ellies again, 4 Giraffe in the riverbed, 2 large Koedoe bulls, Sandgrouse and a Tawny eagle.
Just about a kilometer before the Olifants bridge we noticed another roadblock. We finally got our turn to get reasonably close and as soon as I switched off the vehicle I heard the distinct call of a Lion cub. We sat there for more than an hour and I will have to describe what we saw as I got absolutely no usable video or phodies of either the mom – I just saw her briefly disappearing into the bush – nor the babies, nor any of the proud daddy.
Dad was acting strangely, giving me the eye, sort of tired look in those yellow eyes – at that point he was a mere four meters away from me. He very carefully and slowly maneuvered himself, then sitting up, then sitting down, then again trying to lie down. All the time gently pawing his three cubs born but an hour ago. We spoke to the people at Satara that witnessed the cubs still covered in blood with mom cleaning them after the birth. It should now be rather obvious why I could not get any phodies – mom and dad did a very good job of hiding those brats of theirs.
Suffice to say that even my favorite Olifants bridge paled into insignificance after what we just witnessed.
On the road to Satara we noticed an increase in numbers of Zebs, Impies, Wildebeest and Giraffe. We spotted another pair of Homo sapiens trying to stretch their necks as tall as the giraffe’s in the background. Another two sightings of Ostrich ( first 2 and then 4 with chicks in tow), another herd of about 300 Buffs – check out the one using her horn as a pillow. Amazing that after all my visits to the park I have only seen a large herd near Lethaba once before – then on this trip……..
The resident 3 Ground Hornbills and a quick pit stop at Satara to meet the new receptionist that winked at me. Nsemane dam produced another herd of Ellies rolling in the mud and then dusting themselves. Just before the Phelwane river on the Rabelais dirt road (yes, I had to get in a few kilometers on dirt before we go out the gate) we saw another 3 Ground Hornbill, a family of warthog trying to find some water in the almost dry Phelwane and a final 3 Ground Hornbill close to the Talamati road. Our final sightings were a Tawny Eagle on the nest, two large Kudu bulls and a male Ostrich.
The last bit is not Sanparks related, but please forgive me for this. Those of you that are familiar with the area around Klaserie – around Moholoholo – this is what we found.
It just broke my heart – rather obvious that those fires were started deliberately. The helicopter and ground teams were trying to subdue the flames in at least four areas that I could spot from the road.
14 hours later – we clocked back in safely but very tired.