Alright Folks...... Let's give it a bash:
DAY 1: 1st December 2007 – Benoni to Malelane
I think most of you reading this will know how difficult it can be to get teenagers out of bed, particularly at 5 AM. I find waving R100 notes under my 17 year-old daughter’s nose usually does the trick – the notable exception to this principle comes on what is known in our family as ‘Kruger Day’! Come Saturday 1st December 2007, and they are both packed and ready to go by 5:30. The car is packed in a flash and after a quick farewell to my wife (who is not coming on the trip and therefore still fast asleep) we are off!
The N4 is the N4 (with its ever increasing tolls) ….. Breakfast at Belfast, over Schoemanskloof, through Nelspruit and before we know it, it’s a left turn and the Malelane Gate is before us…… We are back in paradise!!!!
We stop on the bridge – no sign of any hippos, but there are a few crocs quite a distance away, but what we did notice was that there was a phenomenal number of German tourists on the bridge!
Within seconds we were booked in. As it was 10:15 AM and therefore too early to go to our bungalow at Malelane, we decided to drive up to Berg-En-Dal to buy some charcoal for that evening’s braai. Less than 400m from the gate we encountered our first mammal of the trip, this white rhino, who was rubbing his snout against a tree:
A little further on we encountered these giraffes, having a lie down:
As it was officially ‘baby season’, I had been instructed by my wife to take lots of photos of the different baby animals we may sight during the trip, and these fawns were only to happy to oblige, just before the Berg-En-Dal turn off:
Almost immediately before we drove in the gate at Berg-En-Dal, my eagle-eyed 15 year old son spotted a lone elephant way off in the distance. So, all-in-all, we felt we were off to a pretty decent start. We made our purchase and plumped for the Matjulu loop on the way back to Malelane. All was reasonably quiet until about 500m before the tar road where we came across a small herd of around 10 buffalo on the far bank of the river. So as it stood, we were delighted with our start, and had the feeling that perhaps this trip was going to be a little bit special.
We turned right onto the H3 to go and unpack, when we saw a Renault Clio stopped beside the road. As I pulled up behind him I heard my daughter make a sound that all in the car were very familiar with. The ‘Lion Gasp’! Sure enough, a lioness had just crossed the road and was walking off into the bush on the left. Unfortunately, we were unable to take any photos or video as she was gone in a few seconds, but we all saw her, so we had seen 4 of the Big 5 on our ‘charcoal expedition’! A truly brilliant start to our trip.
We unpack at Malelane, and after an hour or so of much needed sleep, we set off up the H3 towards Afsaal. At the junction of the S118 (Mlambane loop) we saw this herd of female Kudu:
About 1km before the Renosterpan turn-off, we found our first breeding herd of elephant:
Here is a nice pic of one of the calves in the herd:
We pressed on and turned off to have a look at Renosterpan. Here we encountered a gentleman in a white Mercedes who noticed the yellow ribbon around our wing mirror. This gentleman will feature elsewhere in the trip report, and it transpires that he is a regular reader of the forum, but not a member. Sadly, I have (embarrassingly) completely forgotten his name, so I will refer to him from this point on as ‘Reader’. Anyway, ‘Reader’ had met Gunner earlier on in the day, and was delighted to meet another forum member, and so we had a bit of a chat and went our respective ways. In the vicinity of Afsaal, we saw the usual large number of impala, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, and 3 rhino.
We returned to Malelane via the Steilberg gravel road, the Matjulu loop, had a quick stop at the Matjulu waterhole and then called it a day without anything much of any consequence being sighted. It would appear, and this was confirmed by Lourens on the day we left, that the game is rather scarce in the Berg-En-Dal area at the moment, so the people are traveling a little further afield for the better sightings.
We arrived back at camp very content with the day’s sightings. Only the potentially tricky leopard remaining from the Big 5. ‘Reader’ was in fact our neighbour at Malelane, and as it happens, they saw a leopard on the 1km stretch of gravel road leading to the camp at 6:20 PM that evening, so we missed it by a couple of minutes, but you can’t have it all can you?
HUGE plaudits to DuQues for the idiots guide on how to post thumbnails..... without it, I would have been really up the creek!