Sleeping in the car was not as a bad as first envisaged, however this could well have been down to the fact that after nearly 20 hours of travelling the day before I could have slept just about anywhere!
We awoke to the gentle drops of rain on the roof at 5:00am and quickly moved into gear I really wanted to be the first person out the gate for once and when we arrived at the gate for 5:45 we were 3rd in queue, great I thought there is a fork just outside with 3 roads so we will take which ever one no one else takes and plan the morning drive from there. 5:58am and with perfect timing that only a 6 year old possesses my boy suddenly decided he was busting for the loo ! Great lol. So off we rush maybe we could get back in time alas it wasn't to be and when we got back all the cars had gone and we were the last ones out. So I decided to stick to the original plan and take the S30-S128 to Lower Sabie and then come back on the H4-1. However, once on the road I completely forgot to take the turning over the bridge probably due to the fact it was so early and im not an early morning person. We saw nothing for the first hour and half and our first sighting were two rhino's just before lower Sabie. These rhinos would turn out to be a great debate topic.
As we pulled up the couple who were already watching the two said these are the black rhino the smaller species I was unsure yet didn't want to doubt their knowledge, there where two and they were definitely very small almost half the size of the white rhino we saw the day before and the others we saw after-wards. Speaking to a woman at lower sabie she also expressed doubt saying the were very rare in kruger and because i couldn't see what shape their snout was there was no way to be sure! she wisely reminded me Blacks are Browser and whites grazers - unfortunately the pictures are inconclusive - I did think at the time that they were grazing off the bushes but perhaps that's because I wanted them to! I couldnt find her later to run a theory by her that perhaps these two where adolescents and would explain their small size ? of course this begs the question where was mamma? and don't rhinos only have one off spring?
Anyway during a short stop for a nice hot chocolate at Lower Sabie, and I gotta to say it was one of the best ever hot chocolates I've ever had, we had an unexpected guest.
Then there it was the noise I had been waiting for! to me the call of Africa the unmistakable call of the African Fish Eagle and there it was in all its beauty soaring above the River! yep I was definitely back in Africa!!
Leaving Lower Sabie we crossed the bridge and took the S128 and straight away we had our first sighting of Giraffe and Zebra
A little further down the road and can you believe another two sightings of Rhinos - this one definitely a big White Rhino a true beauty!
Our final sighting on the S30 was one of the Big Six woohoo
On our arrival at Skukuza I decided to check the sightings board to see what had been seen in the morning - imagine my horror when there where 5 sightings of Lions on the S30 & S128 if only I hadnt missed my turning? my Lion voodoo had struck again arghhhh.
A nice brunch was had and then it was time for our afternoon drive we decided to go down the H1-1 then cut across the S21 and come back up the H4-1. Our first surprise of the afternoon was this lovely fella
He decided to have a nice little drink from the road
The rain must have sent everything into hiding because we didnt see anything else till about 3:30pm and we where half way back up the H4-1, incidentally my favourite road! (perhaps I tend to over travel this road? but it always brings sightings for me). Coming round the bend there they where the little un playing obliviously in the road.
After settling at what I considered a safe distance away we continued to watch the baby elephant but the bush was so thick and visibility was poor and you could hear elephants breaking branches and one by one the cars started piling up behind us! Then crash the bush came alive and out charged big daddy 2 metres from the car facing directly at me - my instinct kicked in and my well rehearsed reversing drill (all those hours practicing in Tescos car park paying off) then it happened my worst nightmare coming true there was no where to reverse all the cars behind me engaged in the spectacle in front of them of a Huge Bull ears flayed trunk lifted and ready for action where not moving! for what seemed like an eternity we looked each other in the eye as all I could think of is this it? am I about to become a headline "Naive British Tourist trampled by rampaging Elephant"? My destiny at the mercy of the fates and this magnificent marvel of nature! eventually someone noticed my plight and reversed allowing me space to reverse out when I noticed that there was still a Mamma and baby feeding in the bushes! When an over eager car decided to proceed I flagged them down and warned them yet it was unheeded and they carried on ignoring the Golden Rule never mess with a mamma and her baby out she came charging - promptly intiating a mass reverse from the cars and huge roars of laughter from my son - Ahh the bliss of naive youth!
After my nerves had settled down and I had stopped shaking and was sure the elephants had moved on off we went again when there he was my banker the one animal I always see in Kruger.
I looked around for the rest of the pack but couldnt see them, this one seemed quite agitated and my best guess is that he had got separated from the pack and was frantically looking for them. As quick as he appeared he disappeared again.
Time was catching up with us and happy with our days sightings we headed off for camp. But mother nature was not finished with us and had one more surprise in store for us two kms from skukuza there he was sitting patiently by the side of the road a beautiful young male leopard! wow what a sighting he just sat there looking at us before deciding to walk round us what an experience when all of a sudden a car in front of us decided to reverse right in front of us and block our view
and then turned to me and told me it was a leopard to which my immediate thought was no its a CAR!!!!! so unfortunately all i have is a very blurred pictured of the back of a leopard. What was really frustrating about this was not that the car reversed directly in front of me blocking our view, I understand peoples excitement at special sightings like this, but the leopard had started walking sideways and if everyone had just stayed put would in all probability moved slightly further and crossed the road in front of them giving everyone an even more exciting sighting but by them reversing the leopard promptly changed direction and disappeared into the bush. Perhaps this thought process comes from years of tracking Big Cats in the Indian jungle? who knows?
Our excitement was fever pitch as we arrived back in camp to be greeted by some more good news. An elderly couple who had been camping near us with their family approached us to tell us that their son had gone back home and left a two man tent for us to use as he noticed we slept in the car the night before! What a remarkable gesture of humanity. As we sat around the braai discussing each others days sightings life couldn't have been better, little did we know that our trip was about to be precariously perched on the slippery slope of oblivion......