Waking up around 6 which is quite late, but we'd be moving camp to Balule that day so we needed to take down the tent and load the car, which is best done with some daylight. So we had an easy time of it, drinking coffee, my partner eating rusks (which I have renamed to dogfood for the looks of it) and looking at the very tame birds. For birding you do not need to leave the camp at all! We saw red and yellowbilled hornbills that can be approached to two meters, grey louries (Go-away birds, but I prefer the old name), wattled starling and a load of silly francolins while packing the car. A saddlebilled stork graced us with a visit just outside the fence, but forgot to get into a better place for photography. It may not have noticed the lense pointing in it's direction.
After loading the car and setting the coffeegear within reach we fill up the thermos with fresh boiled water from the communal kitchen. Those boilers are great! It saves you a lot of work, and there is always boiling water handy. Those of you who are visiting and staying in cottages or safaritents, don't forget the option of getting the water there.
Ons rij and decide to take the Rabelaisloop. On the way to the beginning of the loop we see some spotted dikkop, giraffes, wildebeest and 3 Cape vultures in a tree.
At Rabelaisdam we have some coffee and wait for animals to pop up. None do, but I have evil ideas for the quizzes and shoot some photo's. A woodland kingfisher sings us a song, but wants to stay anonimous so I have no photo's of him.
On the road towards Bobbejaankrans we meet up with a purple roller, which is the first time I see one, and a gorgeous waterbok buck. He's a real beauty, but the intervening grass prevents me from taking any photo's of him. At Bobbejaankrans we enjoy the view for a while, long enough to be amused by the antics of a francolin and a visit from a squirrel. Obviously he's used to being fed, he is very tame. Going through my knees he actually approaches the hand which I hold out, but when he finds that there is nothing in it he nibbles one of my fingers and leaves again. Continuing on we see more giraffes and zebra, and a great sighting of whitebacked vultures on their nest, right next to the road.
At Nsemani dam we spot a Tawny eagle, and I make a panoramic photo of the dam. That is on film, which still has to be developed, I'll post it in the Kruger Camps & Roads section later. Just outside Satara Rest Camp we meet up with a lone buffel, making a total count of 3. Another six to go and I'll have seen all the nine buffs in Kruger I happily joke. The smile falls of my face a few minutes later when we see a campervan which is towing a 4x4. That is nothing special, and will not wipe the smile off my face, but the three kids on the roof of the campervan do! A quick move and my camera is recording the scene, imagine the effects of an emergencybreak or lowhanging branch they pass... We wanted to have lunch at Satara anyway, so when we pass the reception I show the photo's to a very helpfull staff. Of course the licenseplate is in the photo's as well, and the telephone is grabbed to send out a call to other camps. Very handy those digital camera's!
At 12.45 we leave Satara again, off to the loved by some and hated by others S100! Within 10 meters of that road we see wildebeest, zebra's and a giraffe, followed a little further by a Lilac Breasted Roller, 4 more giraffes and two rangers on bikes. They do not wave us to stop to inform us of a sighting, and we completely forget to ask them.
The S100 is a little singed in places, which does give us a better view. We see plenty of the general game, a kill just in front of the car, squirrels, vervet monkeys, terrapins, herons, Burchells coucal and two huge monitor lizards which must be over two meters long. Not a single of the large or small cats, no elephants, and no buffels, so no special sightings to be mentioned here. The kill you say? Oh, that was a Lilac Breasted Roller picking up a grasshopper.
We turn onto the Gudzani Road (S41) and continue on the Old Main Road (S91). On the way we see 12 waterbuck, shongololo, a few duikers and a Black Crake which manages to evade my lens very well from a meter away. In the end I settle for a photo of a lovely red dragonfly, which on coming home turns out to be unsharp. If only I had taken another one...
The road is almost devoid of the larger game, and we do not even see an elephant for most of the way. It's lovely looking though, as you can see in this ± 270° panoramic photo. It's a large photo, so I have posted it as a download.
(Click the image, wait a few seconds at that site, and click download at the lefthand bottom of that page.)
That said we come upon a scene we do not want to see. We are a bit behind schedule, and see a car in front of us being followed by a big bull elephant. The car is reversing, but not taking enough distance for the ellie to ignore them, so it is dragged all over the country. A quick timecheck shows us that we really have to go past, and we have no time for a playfull elephant so we signal the car over. The people inside it complain that they've been reversing for at least 5 kilometers and the ellie won't let them past. Sneaking a look at the ellie I notice that it is already off the gravel and happily munching the grass now that the car is a good distance away. Taking the smile off my face I make it grave again to be able to speak with the people in the car again, agreeing that elephants can be a nuisance, but that we really have to go now or we'll be late in Balule. The people agree, they have to be there as well. So off we go, past the elephant that is by now at least 5 meters from the road, and does not even look at us. The other car did not dare. We never saw those people again, they must have gone back to Satara where they will have been too late. Looking at the tracks they were not kidding about reversing more than 5 kilometers, which was not needed at all. Remember people, give elephants the space they want to have, and mostly you'll be fine.
Continuing our drive we spot a family of dwarf mongoose, duiker, ellies, steenbok, korhaan and really flocks of francolins and hornbills playing chicken with our tires, flying away at the last moment.
Just before Balule we come upon the Hyenaden where I take a few quick photo's, and hasten towards Olifants reception. On the lowwater bridge we have our first Yellow Ribbonmeet in Kruger, Dinkybird & husband, which have invited us for dinner and sundowners. Well, the sundowners will become drinks in the dark as the sun is going down and we still need to check in at Olifants and drive the 12 kilometers back to Balule!
Just past the low waterbridge we spot some baboons and 3 kudu, but we are running late so do not stop for a look. At Olifants I check us in at 17:18. At the reception they are not entirely happy with me, but when I say that we'll drive back without stopping unless we can't do anything else they relent and let us go. Our own eveningdrive! We drive back let's say fast without speeding, and actually have to stop for a moment to avoid driving into a herd of giraffes. The moment we can we slowly drive past, our low viewpoint (Toyota Tazz remember) gives us a very nice idea of how large a giraffe bull is at 3 meters distance.
At the gate the keeper is a little perplexed that Olifants had let us go, but he graciously lets us in. We set up the tent next to the fence and are greeted by Dinkybird & SO. Once set up we visit them for drinks and a very nice dinner. A word of warning: If you are invited to one of their dinners make sure there is plenty space in your stomach! Having a dinner next to the fence, with hyena's just 2 meters behind it is very much a Kruger experience!
DAY 2: Maroela to Balule
After the rains it was a beautiful morning, stormclouds and not too cold. Decided on the S106 (Rabelais Loop). Quiet animalwise, but a nice drive. Saw Rabelais Hut for the first time. Good vulture sighting , Purple roller and a Woodland Kingfisher. Met an American couple living in Australia at Bobbejaankrans. Helped them a bit as they seemed quite lost on how to find game! Very quiet animalwise. Nsemani Dam did yield the usual Hippos though. Stopped at Satara for lunch. Looking forward to seeing the new-look Satara once construction is done! Love the place. A special mention to the new people running the cafeteria area. Well done! That has always been one of Satara's least good points. Fast, efficient, bigger selection. Met up with the Americans again, suggested a nightdrive to them. Not sure they knew you could do that.
Onto WTM's S100. Sorry WTM, still a favourite road for me. Lots of general game. No big ones though, but good enough for me! Took the S41/S90 to Balule. Grass very dense and high making spotting a bit difficult. I hate Francolins! They have no road manners at all! It's a miracle I haven't killed one yet. Turned into a very eventful drive this one! Bout 5-7kms after turning onto the S90 we came across an ellie bull that decided he wanted to have some fun. He was walking determinedly behind a vehicle following them. Stopping next to us I was told to turn around as this bull had forced them to do just that a good while back, he refused to let them pass. I saw him ambling off into the bushes so we decided to drive by as he was eating. No trouble, we even had a look at him. The others turned around and we never saw them again. Would like to know if big guy promptly halted them again!
By now we were LATE! Arriving at Balule Low-water bridge we met a Landy on its way to Balule, Sorry DB didn't know it was you and Hawk! But by that time GP was REALLY worried as we had to book in at Olifants still! Booked in at 17:20, gate closes at 17:30. After instructions to stop nowhere we were allowed to drive onto Balule – our own personal sunset drive! Arrived late, put up tent in the dark but we managed.
Thanks for a lovely evening DB! Having dinner with a hungry hyena 2m behind your back and a lion roaring every now and then was BRILLIANT!
Balule stole my heart. With lanterns in the toilet blocks and kitchen block this is camping at its best. Neat well-layed out camp. I fell in love with this beautiful camp. I'll be back, that's for sure. It gets 10/10 on my scale! The roads around it are to die for. LOTS of game. Between there and Olifants Camp we saw Hyenas at their den, a resident steenbuck right by Balule, lions, and everything inbetween.