June 10th Lower Sabie to BiyamitiMorning Drive: H4-1/S30/S29/Mlondozi/S29/H4-2/H5/S25/S139
We decided to go to Mlondozi for breakfast, rather than coming back and trying to cook breakfast at Keartland, so by 6:15am cars were packed and we were on our way.
After a brief stop at Sunset Dam to view the locals we found this pair of fish eagles
A few km before Nkuhlu we found a hyena in the road, but as soon as he saw the cars he was off at full sprint. I never know what to do in a situation like this, do you follow him and scare him more, or do you just sit back and watch him run off. We decided to follow at a distance that hopefully he would feel safe and would stop running, but each time he stopped and saw the cars he took off again. Eventually a car came from the other direction and that scared him into the bush.
The usual suspects made the odd appearance up to the H12 Bridge, but generally fairly quiet, so we decided to travel up to the Skukuza T-junction and come back to the S30. We have a little dirt road loop there that’s always been successful for us just outside Skukuza.
Just past the H12 we found the rarest thing in KNP, another car with a yellow ribbon. Chantal had bought yellow ribbons for both cars and had proudly tied them to the cars.
I pulled up next to the fellow “formite” and put my best cheesy on, but was told to move along by the wave of a hand. He must have been having a bad day, or we were interrupting something that we couldn’t see. Oh well, we will have to find another more socialable yellow ribbon.
About 50m into the dirt road loop I looked towards the Sabie River and walking in the grass just off the road was a leopard heading down to the river. I slammed on brakes and jumped on the walkie talkie to Garth who was behind me.
The window of view for leopard moving on the ground in thick bush is so small and by the time everyone was in position the leopard had disappeared. The only other person that had seen it was Chantal as it disappeared down to the river. We spent 20 minutes, amongst other cars that had now become curious, driving slowly up and down the short dirt road loop trying to find the leopard, as we knew that it would drink and then return to the thicker bush.
Waiting for something to happen in the bush with small kids in the car is a nightmare, as their patience span in a stationary car is a lot shorter and tempers begin to get frayed. I think that everyone thought that I was mad when I suggested one more slow drive down the road. Halfway down the dirt road loop is a storm water drain which looked like a perfect spot for a leopard to hide, so we stopped there and spent a few seconds looking up and down the drain, but as I gave up, put the car in first and looked forward, standing in the middle of the road, 10m in front of us, was the leopard. At about the same time that I saw the leopard my youngest, 4 year old Madison started shouting “Look at the cute kitty” Chantal had given up and switched the cameras off and put them at her feet, so the usual shrieking for cameras started and the leopard started to move off the road. Between Garth and I we only managed the 2 photos below.
On the way back to the S30 we found the odd elephant herd and a warthog that ran along the side of the road and much to our surprise disappeared under it. He must have had a hole in the long grass leading under the road.
The first part of the S30 was quiet except for a herd of waterbuck
Just before the S30/S29 intersection we saw something running in the road ahead of us. Garth and Mel were ahead of me and had a better view, but from my position it looked like a small fat bear running down the road. I obviously new that it wasn’t a bear, but what was it? A second later the walkie talkie rang out with the words “civet”. We thought that a leopard had the disappearing award until we tried to photograph this chap after he went into the grass. We never saw him again.
2km before Mlondozi we found this rhino lying in the grass. I must admit that to me it looked like a large rock with a bird twitching on it (that was its ear). The sighting must have been as exciting for the kids who were more interested in bacon and eggs by now.
The usual Mlondozi zebra showed up just before the dam. The male was trying to get a little too friendly with a mare and I didn’t feel like explaining this to the kids, so it was off for breakfast. (I didn’t know at the time that I would have some major explaining to do later in the trip).
When we arrived at Mlondozi, which is a special place for us, we were amazed to see how full the dam was, which will be brilliant for the area in the dry months to come. There were 3 other people at the picnic site, a couple sitting at a neatly laid table and a tour guide slaving over 2 skottels. They kindly warned us about thieving monkeys that were trying to steal bread. Garth proceeded to let them know that they should be more afraid of our troop of kids then the monkeys.
We started the bacon on our hired skottel and tried to get the kids to sit quietly at the tables and wait. Halfway through cooking the bacon, we started chatting to the tour guide (to find out if they had any good sightings), when he asked if we had seen the cheetah on the side of the road, just before the picnic site entrance. Much to our horror, he showed us where they were, the telltale traffic jam still visible from Mlondozi (we drove straight past them on our way in). After a 2 second conference, breakfast became bacon rolls.
It turns out that our breakfast companions were correct about the monkeys though, because as soon as Garth and I were away from the table the monkey thieves ran straight across the table and stole 3 rolls out of Mel’s hand.
The remaining bacon rolls went down rather quickly and we were on our way.
We arrived at the cheetah sighting just in time to see her get up move around for about a minute and then disappear under a bush. We waited for half an hour hoping that she would reappear, but it never happened, so back to Lower Sabie for a toilet stop.
To be continued...