I thought my morning was going to be really dull. I decided to drive down the main road to the river - saw nothing. Drove north along the river, again a few hippo but nothing else. Turned around - and a brief bit of excitement as a large hawk (who knows what?!) descended on a large flock of guinea fowl. Lots of noise and commotion but the hawk missed. I then drove down to the Olifants bridge - nothing to see on the way. Not even an impala.
On the bridge there was only one thing visible - but that was worth seeing. A white crowned plover; one of the rarer plovers in the Park. I then took the dirt track back up to Olifants - and a dull drive suddenly got better. A group of giraffe with two young ones in perfect light. Some hippo in a pool. Then 10 kori bustards in a group
- amazing sight. Finally a family group of hyaena with some of their gorgeous young (honestly, the adults may be a bit dodgy in the looks department, but the young are gorgeous!).
We then drove up to Mopani. As mentioned yesterday, crickets are out in number - even more today. Different sorts too, some looking like stick insects. The armoured bush crickets are starting to behave horribly, as they devour their friends who have been run over. Most unpleasant!
Today started well, with Sue having an excellent spot almost immediately - a white faced owl, quite a rare bird. And I have a picture to prove it (albeit a rather poor photo as it was still dark!). From then until Shingwedzi (on the H1-6) was remarkably quiet - the dirth of game continues.
The trip upto Punda would have been equally quiet but for two events. Firstly some excellent photos of the purple roller. Then just after Babalala picnic spot we met a road block - a large bull elephant. He was 'surrounded' by 10 cars who were parked much too close both to each other and to the elephant. The elephant was walking to and fro across the road so no one was going anywhere. We stayed well back (roughly 10 miles, which is where Sue feels comfortable) and wondered why the cars were so lucky - the bull must have been very stressed being trapped. Then on closer inspection we could see that he appeared injured on his shoulder, and not wanting to put his weight on one foot - again even luckier for the cars as an injured animal is usually even more dangerous.
Since no one seemed to be going anywhere (and we later overheard an old lady say that she had been trapped there for an hour!), and since I was luckily able to get a mobile phone signal, I tried the camp numbers on our map - but these seemed wrong! I know the shop manager at Shingwedzi so I rang him - he then rang the area ranger. Within 5 minutes a ranger had arrived and got everyone moving; we stopped and had a brief chat with him and a better look at the elephant. It had a horrible wound (no idea from what) that was seaping pus, and a swollen leg. The ranger said he was going to speak to a vet but I am sure that the only practical and kind solution would be to shoot the elephant - no doubt when no tourists were about. I still have not been able to find out actually what happened.
Had an early trip around the Mahonie loop and had a reasonable trip - lots of birds, a lion, a giraffe and the usual impala. Crowned hornbill. Looking for the racket tailed roller, but no luck so far.
After breakfast I went up to Parfuri. Plenty of water in the Luvuvhu, and even the Limpopo is flowing (never seen that before). Still a surprising lack of water birds; I can understand why this years very heavy rains has left water all over the veld for the animals, but I had hoped to see plenty of storks and herons. Not even seen a grey heron yet! But I did see the uncommonest one! - the woolynecked stork. Whitecrowned plover at the bridge - but no wattled ones yet.
Saw a large group of hippo on the bank - 25 or so, with several small ones. One, presumably the boss, got into the water and a couple of others followed. After a few minutes, the boss let off a couple of very loud hoots and all the others rushed into the water with lots of splashing and noise. Most impressive. Plenty of nyala around and the usual hordes of vervet monkeys and baboons. No mambas at Parfuri this year.
Started off very cold this morning. Not said a lot about the weather; its certainly dry now, though getting colder. Only 7 degrees this morning. Gets to about 26 in the afternoon which is very pleasant. Apart from one day at Olifants when it blowed a a gale it has been very calm as well.
Did Mahonie again early and had a very quiet drive until almost home - when I was faced with 50 or so buffalo; not walking across the road as they normally do, but walking up it towards me. I drifted towards them and they slowly walked towards me. When 100 yards apart I realised that it was a much bigger herd, with at least another 100 on either side of the road. What to do? I decided to stop the car and see what happened. They came closer and closer - I was obviously terrified! At the last moment they gave in, and disappeared either side.
After breakfast off to Parfuri again; saw very little, except some elephant in the distance. Arrived at Parfuri and decided to go to the new private camp there. Just to 'suss it out'. Actually very impressive, right on the banks of the Luvuvhu. But - no air conditioning in the tented rooms (would be very hot in the summer where days are 40 plus and the nights rarely drop below 20) - and 1400 Rand (£140) PER PERSON per night (though this does include food and a game drive).
So I will probably stick to Punda Maria! And we had checked out some new accomodation at Punda earlier too - some 'luxury' tents (very nice) and two very impressive guest houses.
Punda was quieter (lots of children there yesterday!) but a lot more to be seen. Heuglin's robin, green backed warbler, a woodpecker, brown hooded kingfisher, and a martial eagle just over the river. Watched the hippo again for 30 minutes or so - great fun, with yellowbilled stork, white crowned plover, giant kingfishers, stilts, nyala, and crocodiles adding to the fun.
It was getting a bit late at this point, so after Crooks Corner we decided not to go back to the picnic spot but head off to the parallel tarred road - and what a good choice. 7 cheetah all in a row.
Amazing sight and great photos.
Sorry - but the best I managed was 6 in a photo - but there were 7, honest!
No photo of a long tailed starling (seen plenty!), and still not seen a racket tailed roller!