Day 7 (27/06/2008)Route: Mopani Road; H1-6; Shingwedzi Road; S135; H1-7; S55; H1-7; S135; Shingwedzi Road; H1-6; Mopani RoadNight Drive Route: Mopani Road; H1-6; S49; S50; H1-6; Mopani Road
After yet another night of Lions roaring we were at the gate even before it opened, now really starting to go crazy because of not seeing them!
The Waterbuck that greeted us yesterday afternoon slept close to the gate and this morning they greeted us along with a beautiful sunrise over the Lebombo Mountains!
On the way down to the H1-6 we found an Elephant and 15 Zebra standing close to one-another. The road now turned rather quiet, we did find a breeding herd of Elephant after 4km, this baby was playing hide-and-seek between his mothers legs. We quickly took a snap of him when he got a bit more in the open!
Then all else died down after about 10km someone stopped us to hear whats down the road, he then told us of some special birds about 1.4km back in the Shingwedzi direction. And there they were 4 of the most beautiful parrots I have ever seen, and they are endemic so no pet shop version!!! It took a bit of scanning the books but eventually we made a positive ID, they were Brownheaded Parrots!
Our first Parrots in Kruger! Unfortunately they were a bit to far and in bad light.
At Eendrag Waterhole some Impala pitched with a few Ostrich. And then we hit hard on the brakes again hoping that this one was the elusive Sharpe's Grysbok. And goodness me it was!!! Such a sweet little thing but my, how difficult to take a photo of this elusive little thing!
A while later four Kudu joined the sightings for the day! A little Steenbok also made her appearance. Then we came across our first predators for the day three Hyena pups and their mom resting near their den next to the road! This pup just awoke to say hi while his sibling was still fast asleep!
The rest of the road to Shingwedzi delivered a bull Elephant and two troops of Baboons!
After a quick stop and saying hi to the Bushbuck ewes in the riverbed we were of to Babalala, passing a troop of Vervet Monkeys at the back gate! Down in the riverbed the two Saddlebilled Stork's and Hamerkop was still busy fishing! Just up the bank on the other side and around the corner we almost collided with a breeding herd of Ellies!!! On the H1-7 as soon as the Mopane thicket opened up to grassland savannah again two Southern Ground Hornbill's was walking a way into the veld. In the riverbed of the Nkulumbeni three Nyala's glanced at us from between the reeds. On the rest of the road up to Babalala another breeding herd of Elephants, some Ostrich's, a Redcrested Korhaan and numerous herds of Zebra! We now arrived at Babalala picnic site, situated under giant Sycomore Figs and overlooking a waterhole to the right!
Just outside Babalala on the way back to Shingwedzi we came across three little Coqui Francolin's next to the road. Next up was some Zebra which posed so nicely we just had to take their photo's!
Then all the birds wanted to be photographed as well and we went happy snapping! First up a Lilacbreasted Roller then an Ostrich and last but certainly not least a Blackshouldered Kite!
Some more Zebra's followed as well as a lone Elephant and another Blackshouldered Kite! We now turned off unto the S55 to Lamont Waterhole were we saw some Zebra, a little further down the road a troop of Vervet Monkeys played in the magnificent Mopane Trees!
On the S135 a few more Elephant and Kudu. We then got back to Shingwedzi for a delicious lunch!
We now returned to Mopani, we came across an Elephant in the riverbed and then all was quiet, so much for the Lion and Leopard they saw in the time we went up to Babalala in search of Cheetah! Then we met up with the bachelor herd of Kudu we had seen on our previous Shingwedzi trip! It all happened when a strange sound made us stop, we could not see what caused it but eventually the Kudu's started appearing out of the bush and crossed the road. The herd consisted of young and old alike, some with pretty impressive horns!
Two separate herds of Zebra followed as well as a lone old female Southern Ground Hornbill! Then we came across two beautiful Steppe Buzzard's, we were on a roll again! We made a brief stop at the Tropic of the Capricorn for a few photo's.
Down at Eendrag Waterhole five Zebra had made themselves right at home. A little further on at the unnamed lookout-point of one of the rivers two Saddlebilled Stork's were moving about in the cool shaded water! Nothing further until we got to Bowkerkop Waterhole and found three Tsessebe, the one looking heavily pregnant! We sat and watched them for quite a while, they were very uneasy and we new something must have spooked them. But later on they relaxed and the pregnant one even lay down in the shade!
We once again met up with the local Southern Ground Hornbill's and then we were back to Camp!
A while later Nkumbe and the rest of the family dropped me off for my Sunset Drive and then went for their afternoon cruise. They saw all the animals I am about to mention up to Bowkerkop in my report on the Drive!
The Drive started wonderful our guide quickly introduced himself as Michael and checked that every indemnity form was signed and checked in. He asked a few people to please go and get dressed a little warmer and we waited for them.
Our drive kicked off especially well because as soon as we got on the H1-6 we found "Ore" 'Ears' one of only a handful of White Rhino in the area, we were over the moon as no one had seen any White Rhino on their trip! He then stopped at some foxglove that grew next to the side of the road, he picked some of it and gave everyone a piece with some water. We had veld-soap, it cleans really good and masks your human smell perfectly with its own bushy smell! Not like any of your typical soaps!!! Next up he stopped at some Zebra walking in a straight line to the water.
At Bowkerkop we unfortunately did not see the Lions we had hoped for but he gave us an extremely good explanation of the musky type of smell we always found near waterholes and marshes. It was the "Katpisbos" directly translated as 'Catweebush' I do not know the English name. We turned around and headed back the other way. Found a Steenbok and some Ostrich up to the S49.
Barely around the corner of the S49 and we found a Pearlspotted Owl looking intensely into a patch of grass next to the road. The next moment a mouse burst out from it trying to cross the road but before it could even reach the other side the Owl had snatched it up! It sat next to the road in one of the Mopane bushes and made quick work of it!
We now set off again towards the Mooiplaas waterhole for a quick break. Our Guide allowed us to get off the vehicle but advised us to stay within a few metres on the one side of the truck. We enjoyed some sun-downers while watching some of the animals in the last rays of sunlight. At the waterhole a bull Elephant quenched his thirst with two other Elephants approaching from different directions. Next to the waterhole in the marshy grasses a Tsessebe was peacefully grazing and at the cement dam stood one of the rarest antelope in Kruger, the Roan!!! I was out of my skin by now and tried desperately to take some photo's but unfortunately he was too far and light was bad.
After a while we left and continued with the S49 past the Scientific Veld Burning patches. At each he gave us a brief description, very exciting. There was quite allot of Scrub Hare for the rest of the road.
Joining up with the H1-6 again and we came across a Bushbuck ewe. After a while we found two Steenbok, male & female huddling together to keep warm. Water Thick-knee's were all along the road with their wings spread wide, beautiful with black, white and shades of brown!
We then stopped at a Apple-Leaf and our guide got us a few leaves, the name Apple-leaf is derived from the sound the leaves make when you crumple them. It sounds like someone biting into an apple.
We quickly stopped and turned off all the lights and the engine, we sat quietly listening to the sounds of the night. As soon as our eyes were adjusted to the low light conditions we did some star-gazing!
We passed a few grey giants no one even noticing, then Michael stopped and reversed just to show us how easy it is to miss them at night barely seven metres into the veld. Just past the turnoff to Mopani we came across four "Daggaboys" which was rather irritated so we passed them by. We were on our way to try our luck at Bowkerkop.
As we approached it we could see a Black-backed Jackal, and then a fantastic sight. . . A male Lion drank some water!!! Suddenly a Lion started roaring back the way to Letaba, this male then stopped drinking and he returned the chorus. The earth, trees and truck shuddered as he roared. It's these moments one can never forget, a spine-chilling roar of a beautiful male Lion only forty metres away!
He then got silent, Michael wanted to know whether we wanted to go back or wait a while longer. The obvious answer came unanimously we wanted to stay, he quickly made arrangement that we would be a little late! The Lion walked around for another fifteen minutes or so and then returned to his female companion in the bushes. The other Lion started roaring again and the two got up and sat off towards the other Lion. We tried to follow but they quickly disappeared so we went back to Camp. At the Junction with the Mopani Road we found a Side-striped Jackal, we took a fleeing glimpse of him and then our drive was over. We arrived back at Camp highly satisfied clients.
Thank you Michael for this awesome drive, we would never be able to forget it!!!List of Species seen on Day 7 including Night Drive
Zebra 1 Medium & 2 Small Herds + 47
Brownheaded Parrot 4
Sharpe's Grysbok 1
Egyptian Goose 1
Baboon 2 Troops
Vervet Monkey 2 Troops
Saddlebilled Stork 4
Southern Ground Hornbill 8
Redcrested Korhaan 1
Coqui Francolin 3
Carmine Bee-eater 1
Blackshouldered Kite 3
Steppe Buzzard 2
White Rhino 1
Black-backed Jackal 1
Side-striped Jackal 1
Shrub Hare 4
Water Thick-knee 3
Roan Antelope 1
Pearlspotted Owl + Mouse 1