Day 2, Monday 2nd August - Biyamiti to Lower Sabie
We were packed and ready to leave on the next leg of the trip on to Lower Sabie, but couldn't resist spending a few more minutes in the camp around the bird hide watching the elephants in the river bed and the vervets.
Ok time to go off along the S25 towards Croc Bridge where we had planned our lunch stop.
The day was now getting quite warm and animals were fewer, but as keen birders there's always something to keep us happy!
Golden Tailed Woodpecker
I know we had been to the Hippo Pool last year, but I really didn't remember it, time was on our side so we took a detour down to the alighting point.
As we arrived we could see an armed ranger up on the rocks a distance away beckoning for us to come up....we certainly hadn't had that last year, so probably why I didn't remember it specifically.
Up the rocks we climbed..tricky with cameras and long lenses dangling from our necks, but worth it. We spent a pleasant 30 minutes or so chatting to the ranger, and enjoying watching the wildlife below including ...hippo's, water monitor, elephants, waterbuck.
The ranger told us about a pack of wild dogs making a kill that morning outside Croc Bridge...that must have been amazing to witness.
OK I guess it's time to come clean, although I always try not to have any specific expectations for any trip to Africa in respect of what I want to see, as my fear it expectations potentially could lead to disappointment, if I was honest there were 2 things I would love to see. Top of the list Wild dog as I love these beautiful animals and although we had seen them last trip twice, both times it had been fleetingly and the only shot I came away with was the out of focus, back view of a pair of ears disappearing into the bush...I would love the opportunity to take just one nice shot of these striking, untamed creatures. Second on my wish list a cheetah, as on all our trips to Africa we have only seen this magnificent cat once in the wild and that was in Kenya.
So hence I was green with envy as I listened to the tale of the Wild dog kill. But back to the TR, lunch beckoned, so it was onwards to Croc Bridge.
We didn't get far along the road back to the S25 when a Giraffe stop was in order as we came across an adult and two youngsters who seemed quite intrigued by us.
Right....lunchtime! Onwards to Croc Bridge!
With the picnic places all taken we took the easy option and grabbed burgers and toasted sandwiches from the snackbar and enjoyed lunch watched by this little chap on the tree next to us.
Our preference is normally for travelling on the quiter sand roads, so the route up to Lower Sabie was to be via S28.
The S28 was quite quiet as we'd expected at this time of day, but enjoyed the birdlife, general game and watching a family of Warthogs. It was wonderful to watch dad Warthog return to the family after he had been on his travels and to witness the welcome he got from the 3 excited youngsters and mum! They really are great underrated creatures!
A couple of km's before the S28 joined the H4-2 a car flagged us down and a couple of guys excitedly told us that there were lions at the weir just up the road, we would identify the spot by the cars (as always!). So on to the weir!
Yep they weren't wrong....lots of cars! We found a spot where we could see the lions below and watched them for a few minutes before moving on. It was great to see them, but I much prefer sitings like we had had that morning without the multitude of cars and the associated stress of negotiating traffic just to get a glimpse. Agghh..I've only been in the park just over 24 hours and I clearly been spoilt already. At this stage in the trip last year I would have killed just for a glimpse like this!
Anyway a shot just for the record, nothing great as they really were too far away and not ideally positioned for photography.
Approaching Lower Sabie a detour to Sunset Dam required no discussion, it was a given!
Ahh...lovely to be back here and just watch the Hippos and the birdlife as the light warmed in this golden hour before sunset.
Kid Hippo's can do it too (even without the big scary teeth)!
Now time to head into camp and finally get to see the river view tent I have been dreaming of staying in for the last 11 months! I couldn't wait to see it!
Woweee....not disappointed at all well worth every minute of waiting..what a location!
The view from # 27 (taken next day)
As the sun dipped below the hoizon I could I have stayed there for the rest of the trip just listening to the sounds of the hippo's gunting, baboons screaching and the cicarda's humming.
However once again food beckoned and as we had not got ourselves organised for doing it ourselves yet we headed for the deck and ate at the restaurant, listening to the sounds from the river below, occasioanlly flashing the new torch my mum had purchased for me for this very purpose, over the river below.
Tiredness had finally got the better of us and we returned to our tents and turned in for the night. We still had sleep to catch up on from our long travelling days, so needed an early night. However as we were to find out shortly this wasn't quite going to be the reality.....our night was younger than we thought!
I sat alone for a while on the deck and then headed in to unpack and transfer photos on to the laptop. I could hear our companions for the night, a troop of baboons, screeching loudly in the tree right outside our deck. Then every so often I could hear my favourite sound in the world....lions! Each time I would rush out onto the deck to listen...dragging my Andrew with me. After about the 4th time that was he, he told me I was on my own!
This time while I was listening I could hear movement in the reeds below me, so I flashed the torch, something was moving in fact running, then another shape behind it....woweeee a lion!!!!! I couldn't believe what I was seeing right here in front of me only a few meters away, I was sooo excited, I shouted Andrew to 'get out here,now!!'
The chase seemed to have ended but there below crouching on the ground was a large male lion. I dashed next door to summon Tina, who although in he pjama's was not going to let that minor detail get in the way of her and a possible lion siting!
By the time I got back the lion had disappeared, but the adrenalin was pumping, so sleep was out of the question, so we patiently waited constantly scanning the area with the torch. A few minutes later our patience was rewarded another glimpse and then another, at this point we realised there was more than one lion....two male lions amazing!!!! Then it became clear that they were still hunting .....it appeared they were trying to pursue a hippo.....they headed through the reeds and there was a lot of comotion the hippos making noises like I've never heard and then the baboons were screeching and of course as usual the Egyptian geese join in!
By this time a young couple staying in the tent next door had appeared asking if we'd seen the lions and if they could join us on the deck....no problem...it was turning into quite a party!
We spent the next hour or so watching the lions in and out of the reeds and crouching on the grassy area in front of us. Sometimes there was one in view sometimes two. It was unbelievable....the guy from next door commented quite rightly that you spent days on end driving around Kruger to get sitings a fraction as good as this!
After nearly a total of 2 hours watching the lions futile attempts to get themselves a meal, they appeared to be moving off, we watched them as they made there way out of the reeds and along the open grassy area. First one, then two...... hold on there's another one....there must have been three!!
Wow 3 lions we just hadn't realised!!
Then another movement FOUR!!!!
We just can't believe what we are seeing. All of them look to be males in their prime...beautiful!
We are shell shocked and sit for a while to recover....how the heck am I ever going to get to sleep after that?? We reflected on how the day had started with that fantastic lion siting at Biyamiti (that now seems such a long time ago), the siting at the weir and then this to top it off....certainly this was our day of the lions!
A few minutes later another extremely loud comotion from the far side of the river once again got everyone running from their tents on to our deck....it did sound like something had possibly caught a late evening snack, but at this distance it was not possible to tell what.
Now well past 11pm it was finally time to sleep, the gate would be open in less than 7 hours and we needed to be out there on time!!