We are up at first light, one can hear the chirping of birds waking up, a hesitant chirp followed by a few seconds of silence, then another with an answering chirp in the opposite tree. One by one the chorus develops reaching a crescendo of jubilant chirps, thankful for another night spared. Doves chase after each other on the ground, cooing, with heads close to the ground and inflated crops. Glossy starlings chatter away while preening themselves, readying their flight feathers for take-off. Hornbills crash through the shrubs looking for left overs of last night.
After preening ourselves we are off to Nsemani dam. We kick start our day with an early visit to the dam before venturing onto the dirt roads. Our plan is to watch the activities around the dam, drive to Girivana before we head off to N’wanetsi for breakfast. It is overcast with a bit off a chill in the air, I know it’s early but nothing beats a swig of OBS to get the blood flowing. A Black Shouldered Kite surveys its surroundings, hoping for breakfast to arrive. Go away birds clambers through the dense acacia branches at the edge of the dam, marabou wades in the shallows while a Fish Eagle circle high above, a spec against the clouds. His territorial call echoes through the still of the morning. A few elephants arrive to complete the picture. We relax awhile longer while they drink their fill. The sun is starting to break through the clouds as we leave for Girivana.
A Black Bellied Bustard welcomes us onto the S12, her partner nowhere in sight. A steenbokkie looks up from feeding, considers the situation and disappears in the tall grass. Mongoose uses an anthill to sun themselves. The short but interesting road also yields the normal impala and some zebra. Girivana is nothing more than a mud puddle, but we decide to spend some time.
We can hear the lowing of a buffalo off in the distance, if we‘re lucky, the herd might be on their way to the water hole. Some cars come by and ask: “Have you seen the leopard?” “No” we reply and they speed off, chasing the big five no doubt. No leopard and the lowing of the buffalo still coming from the same direction and not getting any nearer. We decide to investigate and find them around the corner on the S40. They are all over the place and some are still covered in thick glistening mud, they must have left the waterhole as we arrived. We share the sighting with one other car, which soon leaves. We switch off and open the windows to let the sounds and smell float through the cab.
They lumber on through the bush, grunting and shoving, showing off their strength with a hefty blow of a horn to the midriff. Cows crowd protectively around the youngest calves as protection against the jostling bulls. Then the green branches close behind them like the final curtain.
Rattling along the last section of the S40, we decide to take the H6 to N’wanetsi. The tar road yield a lonely bull elephant and not much more
At Sonop dam a warthog watches suspiciously before he hurries away.
After a hearty breakfast, we take the S41 to Gudzani dam, the road is dry and dusty and sightings are very scares. Even the hippos that normally congregate at the low water crossing are absent. SO tries her hand at close up photography, she will get the hang of it, practice makes perfect.
At Gudzani, hippos drift, lazily in the water. Some baboons mingle with waterbuck at the water’s edge. Far off in the distance crocs bask in the meager sun. The scene is tranquil; our eyelids become heavy and before long, SO snooze. I survey the opposite bush for any sign of life and find impala quietly browsing alongside giraffe reaching into the tops of the trees.
The sun is starting its downward journey to the horizon; we better get going if we want to make it back in time. SO is woken by the engine starting and we leave for the S100. The sightings are even slower than the S41. A tortoise pushes his way through the hindering grass. Near the end of the S100 a secretary bird dances in a tree top, hoping to lure a mate.
A perfect sunset brings an end to our day. Although we did not see any of the Satara cats, our day was perfect.