No matter what, nothing was stopping me from having my breakfast in the Park this morning! I managed to improvise without my egg lifter - happily lying in the kitchen cupboard at home! Bacon, eggs, mushrooms, onions and toast on a Cadac braai was all I was looking forward to right now.
With breakfast a done deal, we packed up and quickly visited the bathrooms. I must take some time to congratulate the staff at N’wanetsi for a very clean picnic site and for some top notch, clean bathrooms. Its always a pleasure walking into a place smelling fresh and looking clean.
This tend to be a busy picnic spot as its in close proximity to Satara camp and all the early birds driving the S100, I can just imagine staying ahead in maintaining a clean site must be hard work some times. Well done to all of you!
With a full and happy tummy, we hit the road again! We would drive the H6 towards the H1-3, visit Nkaya pan, then turn onto the S125 N’wawitsontso loop. Once that is done, we would drive north on the S36 past Imbali Safari Lodge, stop at Muzandzeni picnic spot and drive back to Satara via the S126 Sweni road to check in for the night.
We must have been driving for only two or so minutes on the H6 when we started finding some game.
I thought it was very odd to see one lonely wildebeest joining up with a herd of waterbuck, only to find out later that night from our guide on the sunset drive that it happens quite often. Normally I find them alongside impala and zebra especially.
A bit further down the road we got two secretary birds, but they walked so fast you need to get that camera ready very quickly to get a decent photo. They walked deeper into the bushes and away from us, so the photos of them do not justify their beauty.
From the H6 we turned south on the H1-3, heading for Nkaya pan. I recall seeing a black dot placed on it from the sightings board in Satara this morning, and I was hoping that he or she would do us a favor and like the pan so much and decide to stay for just a bit longer…
There was not much happening on the H1-3 towards the pan, with the odd lone male impala here and there. Then it struck me again that we really are struggling to find some elephant! I think I can count on one hand how many elephant we saw all together since yesterday entering the Park! In March we found them frequently, and when we did it was large families as well.
We didn’t leave Nkaya pan empty handed though. We couldn’t find the cats, but a couple of Southern Ground-Hornbill waited for us at the waterside.
Back onto the H1-3 again and heading south for the S125, I quickly stopped for a photo. I have lately become very interested in birds and was shocked to see how many birds there was that I don’t know of.
I now have my very own ‘ROBERTS BIRD GUIDE’ and I am busy getting to know my feathered friends a bit better. I took a photo of this beautiful bird, but struggle to identify them.
My humble guess would be the Senegal Coucal or the Coppery-tailed Coucal. But looking in my book, the map that shows their 'area of habitat' falls outside the Kruger??? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Just before reaching the S125 turn-off we spotted two large warthogs with four babies, all of them kneeling down with their bum in the air whilst feeding. At the same time some zebra and impala also crossed the road when we stopped for the warthogs.
We reached a peacefully beautiful S125. This twisty road that closely follows the river course had so much to offer. Just a pity it hasn’t been graded for a while. It was a rattling and vibrating nightmare, feeling like we were driving on corrugated iron during some stretches of this road. Even with George, I had to go very slowly for our kidney’s sake.
Very close to the road two male impalas were locking horns, eager to walk away with a moral victory. A very large flock of suicidal Helmeted Guineafowl decided to touch down on the road in front of us and they must have been at least 40 strong and very adamant about staying in the road, not even budging for a four wheeled metal thing 200 times their size.
Eventually they moved off the road and we were on our merry way again.
We had this whole road to ourselves almost the entire time, maybe with a car passing by each half an hour or so. Nobody right behind me to try and speed up proceedings, kicking up a dust storm in a hurry to get to where they want to be.
When I felt another hand in the centre console box reaching for some biltong and noticing the quick decline in my biltong reserves, I saw my angel chomping down with a huge smile on her face. It was pretty safe to say that I wasn’t the only one loving this day out in the wild!
We were driving around one bend, when this beefed up fellow crossed the road and stopped under the tree when we came to a halt ourselves.
Just before the Mondzweni dam turn-off this baby giraffe stood looking at us.
He looked so funny and a bit out of proportion, such a large body for such a short neck.
Earlier I wrote about the amount of stunning kudu bulls we managed to get during this whole trip. Here is another one saying hello to us. More of them to come later.
We then stopped at Mondzweni dam for a drink and some ‘non-driving’ relaxing time.
We sat here for a while to see if anything interesting would come down to the water for a drink and found some white heron through the binoculars at the opposite side of the dam and a yellow-billed stork sitting high and dry on a rock just above the water‘s edge.
We left Mondzweni dam and pushed on towards our next stop which would be at Muzandzeni picnic spot. I must say that Mondzweni dam is definitely a place I wouldn’t mind stopping once more when I get to drive this road again. Game viewing was plentiful and frequent sightings of giraffe, impala, zebra, wildebeest and kudu were seen throughout. This was definitely a road worth while driving, even though it was not in the best condition and the fact that we did not find any ‘hairy fairy’ ones here…………... well, yet.
Muzandzeni picnic site could not have come at a better time, as both of us were in dire need to visit the toilet from all the vibration on the road! Every time the car would vibrate you could feel the extra drop flowing down and pressing on your bladder!
I loved this little place with all its shade, build in a practical and cleverly thought out location, but I think not everyone would fall in love with their toilets.
Arriving back at the car, I would think that SO would be happy and relieved in stopping here. In fact, she was not."Lovey, we need to get to Satara"
"What's the matter? Why the rush?"
"I couldn't use the bathrooms"
"What do you mean? Are they too dirty? If its urgent, you can use the gents and I will stand guard for you?"
"No its clean enough, but I can't sit down" "I don't understand?"
"There's too much miggies in my way"
'Miggies' and other small insects were flying out of the toilet from below the ground, and I think especially some of the fairer sex would not love this set-up in particular.
I must say, my SO deserves a reward for her bladder. She has one of the strongest and longest lasting bladders in the world! She is always such a pleasure to drive with and if she needs to, she can really hold it for a very very long time.
From the picnic site we took the S126 Sweni road back to Satara.
Once again all the general game was plentiful although the bushveld here seemed a bit drier than other parts that we were driving before. Once again ‘the proof was in the pudding’ to show that it does actually pay driving slowly. Approaching the end of this road before rejoining the H1-3, a car passed us and completely missed this fellow lying down in the open field some distance away from the road.
This was the closest I could zoom in without losing too much focus.
On the H1-3 back to Satara we once again saw what looked like all the local resident animals. The wildebeest, impala, zebra and buffalo from this morning was still hanging around the camp when we approached Satara. Only a few ostrich was a new addition to the scene. Then something funny caught my eye when we passed this buffalo.
Looking carefully at his bum, it looks like someone wrote the number 32 on it!
We finally arrived at 14h15 and checked into a BD2V chalet next to the perimeter fence, unit G174.
Being winter I noticed when checking in, that the time for the sunset drive moved up earlier to 16h30.
This meant that we didn’t have much time left to drive around by ourselves anymore. Even though we didn’t cover a lot of distance today in comparison to yesterday, we decided to call it quits and give ourselves a bit of a breather and take our time offloading.
With that done, it was time for a well deserved (yes you guessed it) sundowner before going on tonight’s sunset drive. While we were relaxing outside on the porch of our chalet, I took some time spotting some birds in the trees around us. Apart from all the other birds, one bird caught my eye in particular. This was a beautiful crested barbet which sat in a tree right in front of us, but unfortunately I couldn’t get a nice photo in time.
After packing some drinks and snacks, at 16h15 we once again arrived at reception for our sunset drive with Mos. While we were waiting for some people to arrive, I quickly took the time to go and have a look at the sightings board. Whoever came up with this idea deserves a medal!
The majority of sightings today happened north between Satara and Olifants, and not so much south as I expected. This made me think that our guide might decide to head up north to improve his chances, a road I haven't yet travelled on today.
When we eventually got going and exiting the camp, Mos surprised me and took the southern option.
At looooong last!! There he stood! A mighty elephant bul! Its been so long since we last saw one, I think this might be our first elephant for the entire day. It was a big bul resting against a tree - not phased by those snapping away from the vehicle. We continued down the road and saw all the general game that we have seen coming in earlier.
I really enjoy sunset drives and always try to book at least one during my stay in the Park. Sometimes its really nice to just sit back and not worry about driving at all. You can concentrate all your efforts on spotting something special, interact with your SO and others in a more direct and intimate way.
Then, would you know it, we were turning onto the S100......... AGAIN.
I must admit that I am not fond of driving the same road twice, I always try to plan my routes in such a way that we travel and cover as many different places as possible. Driving from A to B, then back via C and D is so much more exciting than driving straight back to A.
So, when we turned onto the S100, I admittedly wasn't too excited about the idea as we failed to see any lion and leopard on this road earlier as well. But then again, we are not driving the same road in one DAY....this time it was at NIGHT!
We were sitting at one of the spotlights, and SO would be in charge of giving us our eyes for the night.
Immediately we were into the game. Lots of zebra close to the road, followed by a lovely big tusker in the far off distance. As we stopped for some waterbuck, I took a minute to get a photo of the beautiful sunset.
As soon as it became dark you could immediately feel the temperature drop a degree or two, and the wind chill factor made it feel like a further four or five. Everyone was grabbing at their jerseys while I was kicking myself in leaving mine behind at camp. I always bring one along, but just before the drive I got really hot and thought that it won't get much colder. How wrong I was!
This time of the drive is always interesting to me as you tend to see those creatures that would not normally come out in the day time. Night jars were flying all over the place and we had to stop frequently for a blinded hare or dikkop in the road. The hare always look a bit bewildered or dumb-struck, yet very funny to look at their confused, svervy run down the roads!
Down the S100 we frequently caught the eyes of herds of impala, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck as well as the odd warthog. SO then spotted a hyena running alongside us in the bushes. This was quite a highlight for a couple of first time visitors as they haven't seen hyena before.
We then stumbled onto a civet at some distance from the vehicle, we now had pitch black darkness around us and this was just too much for my camera to cope with. The only photos I would be able to get is when there is something close by. I tell you, time to invest in a proper camera! The guys with the long lenses took some photos and we were off again.
Just before reaching the end of the S100 at the S41 turn-off, the other side of the vehicle called "stop". Mos backed up a bit and all the spotlights were scanning together. It was a genet sitting on a termite nest!
Once again, after I took the photo, all I could get was a lot of black on the screen...
Sadly again, without any lion and leopard we reached the end of the S100 and continued to the Gudzani dam. The next 10 or so minutes that followed was just breathtaking when we reached the dam. WOW! Never in my life have I seen so many hippo and crocodiles together! As the spotlights scanned over the water, eyes were
looking back at us from every direction.
Mos turned the engine and our spotlights off for a moment so that we could listen to all the sounds happening around us at night. We then looked up, appreciating the beautiful african sky with all its bright stars. I don't know how to explain it, even though the hippos were making a lot of noise and the night jars were calling, there was utter peace and quiet in that vehicle. This was such a magical moment and I felt goose bumps running down my whole spine as I held my angel's hand.
There is just nothing better than enjoying this beautiful scene with someone that also appreciates and enjoys the bushveld like I do.
Mos just informed us that we were running a bit behind schedule with the time and that the vehicle was needed again for the 20h00 night drive later on tonight. For the drive back, we were asked not to make him stop unnecessary for the general game that we have already seen, but only for 'those ones' that most people came for in the first place.
We backtracked the S100 again, and I'm sure all the passengers as well as animals had a bit of Deja'vu tonight.....
It just seems like we are not destined to see any lion or leopard today. The drive was nearing its end, and as we crossed the river close to rejoining the tar road back to camp, out of nowhere, the Gods flipped their cards on us...
At last we have lion on the S100 !!
Eventually the S100 delivered!
What an awesome conclusion to our day!! "I am high on drugs again"
"This lion just gave me what I needed."
"Euphoric overdrive kicking in. Yipeeeeee!"
"Shhhhh... the LION my love"(soft excited voice) "Off course I can see its a lion! Have I told you how much I love this place?!!"
"Give me an hour to think about it before you ask me again.."(humming away) "I feel pretty, oh so pretty...."
"If anyone asks, I don't know you"
Because of the night drive starting soon, we couldn't sit with him for too long, but we eventually were fortunate enough to spend about 10 minutes with him before moving on.
To say that we were stoked about the lion was an understatement!
I felt like a 5 year old boy again!!
Day 1 gave us very special doggies, cheetah and rhino. Although we saw so much game throughout the second day, we were still out looking for that something special. At the last few moments of the day, we were so blessed to find it!
There was still so much chatter going on in the vehicle over the lion, that we almost forgot that the drive wasn't over yet!
These hyena came running towards their den just outside the camp. Fortunately it was close enough for me to take a photo.
Reaching our chalet we sat outside for a while listening to the bush going to sleep. One last night jar was still awake, and every now and then you could hear the faint roar of a lion in the far off distance.
We were so satisfied and happy in deciding to join the sunset drive. It just managed to put that 'cherry on the cake' for the day.
After my glass of Amarula was history I slipped into bed, looking forward on what tomorrow might bring. We just completed two days, and another 3 days was still to come. We have found almost everything we could and wanted to, yet one creature still managed to boycot me ALL this time.
Before coming on this (and any other previous) trip, it was already known that it was my mission to come and find you. I know you are out there somewhere. It might not be on this trip, but the day will come when I greet you. Until then, I am patiently waiting and will keep on returning to this amazing place to find your spots. Good night!