Morning broke over the Lowveld and KNP with a spectacular show of light due to all the dust kicked up by the winds which where still blowing strong.
We sat watching the Hippo's bobbing their heads up and down in the water followed by the occasional snort and honk, far off in the distance we could hear some Lions roaring, what a glorious start to the day.
It was a wonderful night and I will definitely be back doing a sleep-out in the hides as soon as the next opportunity presents itself.
After packing up and waving our final goodbye to the Hippo's and the Natal Francolin's we headed for Mopani to return the keys etc. On the way to Letaba only about 2km outside Mopani we found a very sad sight.
*Not for sensitive readers*
A Hyena lay just off the side of the road mostly out of sight of everyone driving faster than 10km/h. It had a snare around its neck which was so tight and badly infected the poor animals' head was swollen to near bursting point. Clearly not much blood could pass through as the ears already started rotting away. It must have been in this sad state for weeks and was still alive, just staring at us and twitching every now and again. We quickly phoned the Mopani manager to report the sighting and the exact location so he could inform the section ranger. (Later on after getting the number of the ranger we established that they could not find the poor animal but would do their best to try and find it as soon as possible.) To me it was quite shocking to come across snares so deed within the park.
We continued on with the drive as there was nothing else we could do for the poor animal. We turned down the S49 to see if we could not find the Lions that killed a Buffalo at Mooplaas waterhole the previous day. As we got to the waterhole we where greeted by two beautiful Secretarybird's looking for a meal on the open ground. We looked for the Lions intently through the binoculars as we found very fresh tracks not even disturbed by the blowing wind.
But all we could find was the carcass of the Buffalo and a Kori Bustard.
Woooa repeat that again. . .? Yes, indeed it was a beautiful Kori Bustard, this definitely made up for the lack of Lions!
Unfortunately we still could not take any pictures as it was heavily overcast.
After watching this handsome bird for a while we continued only to be met by an Airbus A380 coming in for a landing at an airstrip in Kruger!!!
Well not quite literally but definitely figuratively.
It was another Kori Bustard, and the first I've seen flying. It truly is massive and as it came down for the landing very low over the car we where astonished that it was actually capable of flight!!!!!! It is the heaviest flying bird and can clock-in at up to 19kg!
Shortly thereafter we reached the S50 which was mostly quiet up to Nshawu 1. Here we met up with 3 large Elephant bulls. Luckily a few rays of light started to penetrate the clouds which enabled us to take a few photo's.
Continuing to Letaba we came across some Zebra and Blue Wildebeest at Malopenyana waterhole and with them a family herd of Tsessebe!!!
It was wonderful to see these beautiful animals again. Thereafter everything died down a bit until just before we reached the Letaba river. A breeding herd of Ellies made their presence known and at the bridge a nice couple of birds awaited us. These included a Great Egret, Pied Kingfishers, Wire-tailed Swallow, Egyptian Geese, Three-banded Plover etc. The highlight from the bridge was a Burchell's Coucal flying into the reeds only showing himself occasionally, he later on started calling the, air filled with the wonderful duh-duh-duh-duh!
As always the Impala became more abundant close to the water they in turn was joined by some Vervet Monkeys enjoying brunch. This made us aware of our own hunger as there was no time for breakfast earlier.
As soon as we arrived at Letaba we headed for the restaurant here we had a nice chicken burger and as always it was absolutely amazing mmmm!!!!
And with this wonderful meal we admired the sandy riverbed of the Letaba while some Waterbuck grazed close to the fence.
Unfortunately we had to leave soon afterwards as we had to get back to Phalaborwa to do a bit of studying as the next morning would be the biggest test subject of the whole course, Mammals.
About halfway between Letaba and Nhlanganini Dam we came across a small herd of Buffalo enjoying a drink to the right of the road and on the koppie to the left we saw 2 precious little Klipspringers. Very precious indeed since the last time I saw Klipspringer was probably five years ago.
At Nhlanganini the usual Hippo's where present doing a bit of sunning on the opposite bank with an African Fish-Eagle perched in a tree close to them.
The rest of the road was extremely slow as the wind picked up some speed again. After reaching the academy we dove into the books straight away to get prepared.