Sunset Drive (12/01/10)Route: H4-1, H10, S29, S122, H10, S29, H10, H4-1
Finally it was time for the Sunset Drive! We gave our indemnity forms to the guide and took our seats on the truck. We had hoped to meet MJ and that she would be our guide but it was her off night. Our guide's name was Robert and was a great guy and very funny.
As we left camp we quickly took the first no entry road to the right to do the pre-briefing. Robert gave the briefing and then it was time to hear from where everybody came. We were 4 South African and the rest were from Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The drive finally got underway with some Impala and as we stopped on the bridge over the Sabie we found the Buffalo bull of earlier this morning in roughly the same place happily grazing. Further downstream a small herd of Buffalo came down to quench their thirst while the hippo's started to get ready for their nightly escapades in search of food. And then the most beautiful African Fish Eagle came swooping down low over the river and as it sat down in one of the majestic trees on the bank it's call echoed over Kruger. . .
We left the golden river behind in search of some more beauty, and soon the long necks of Giraffe made their presence known in the distance. It looked quite strange to see them trying to feed on the "knee-high" bushes on the flats towards Mlondozi. After admiring them for quite some time and hearing that depending on the time of day and other factors Giraffe can actually spot animals etc. up to four kilometres away
Something tells me they saw us long before we saw them.
Leaving the Giraffes to tend to their dinner we soon found some Zebra's the first and last for our trip. This was actually quite strange as one normally see large herds on these plains not just the six or seven we saw.
According to Robert they migrate to the pastures surrounding Satara during summer and when winter comes they move down south again.
To the opposite side of the road some Red-billed Queleas made a deafening racket and we had to move on as some people started to complain. Luckily for those who enjoyed the sight we came across numerous more flocks of these beautiful birds!
After a few kilometres we saw some Buffalo grazing to the other side of a stream and we took the no-entry road to see whether we could get closer to them. Unfortunately we did not come as close as we would have liked but getting to see some more Buffalo was still a nice sight. Something that caught our eye was how long and lush the grass were it made it look like the Buffs were lying down but then they could not move around like they did, obviously. A few Elephant bulls grazed a bit closer to the stream and then the most beautiful Fever Tree caught my eye.Large View
It was bathed in the setting sunlight and adorned with Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver nests. Unfortunately the only pic taken the whole drive.
At the stream were we turned around we found an African Open-billed Stork and then headed back to the S29. Before we got to the turnoff of the S122 we got a glimpse of some Kudu's running into the bush, looking around to see what had spooked them but eventually carried on after finding nothing.
Now on the S122 we had quite a few sightings of Black Cuckoo's and just past Saalbek Waterhole we had three majestic Elephant Bulls crossing the road. By the time we reached them two were already some distance from the road with one still to cross. It was amazing seeing this giant only a meter of the road standing on a elevated part of ground making it seem even bigger. Now to give you an indication of how close he was, you could smell what he had for lunch while breathing!
He then gave us one look and a good head shake covering the truck in dust and crossed the road as we moved on. Great experience
We eventually got behind Muntse hill well enough that it was dark enough for us to only make out a large dark shape in the road. As we got closer we found it to be a White Rhino bull marking it's territory. While approaching he finished off his business and started dissapearing into the bush on the slope of the hill. Raymond got out after making sure the Rhino would not return to explain the whole marking procedure and what is done and why.
We barely got underway when we were greeted by a pair of Black-bellied Bustards right next to the road. Approaching the end of the S122 we came across three more White-Rhino and some Ellies.
Reaching the tarred road the H10 some people started whining about not finding Lion yet and Robert had his hands full trying to explain that this is a National Park and not a Zoo.
We soon found them some Predators although not the big hairy kind it was some beautiful Owls. First up was a pair of Spotted Eagle-Owls followed by a White-Faced Scops-Owl and not long after this another pair of Verreaux's Eagle-Owls. What made it so spectacular was that they were all within a kilometer from one another.
As we rounded the next bend we were greeted by four huge yellow eyes staring back at us. We found the Lions!!!! The older female quickly moved off the road but her younger companion remained curious of the vehicle. Robert had some troubles getting one of the guys to keep quiet which decided that now would be the time to try and impress his friends with some stupid jokes and comments regarding lions.
The other vehicle made it just in time to see the second Lioness move after her friend and probably the rest of the pride as there was some commotion deeper into the bush nearer the river. Needless to say everyone was furious at this guy not being able to keep quiet and chasing the Lions away!
We tried to remain calm and decided that this would probably be the last nonsense, what wishful thinking this was . . .
The rest of the road to the turn-off to Mlondozi Dam remained quite silent apart from the hundreds of Water Thick-Knee's in the road. But sightings picked up again after reaching the S29. First up was a little Marsh Owl soon followed by another, and another, and another and so it continued, we saw more than 30 of them! Must have been Owl Heaven!
The eye-shine from the spotlights started delivering quite a few Impala and at one point Robert said he thought he saw two Common Reedbuck but he was not sure and we could not find them again. Our attention was quickly drawn to the road soon after this as a Black-backed Jackal crossed the road in one of it's well known "Jakkals-draffies" (Jackal Trots). This had quite a few people amused and it was good to see that the mood lightened again.
We also found a Steenbok, which was pointed as being a Springbok by our talkative gent at the back and no matter how much Robert and some others on the drive tried to explain to him he would not budge. After the third Steenbok I could not keep it in any longer and shouted that he should shut-up as there is no Springbok in Kruger and that he's making a complete fool of himself. With everyone backing me he quieted down for the rest of the drive, thank goodness.
Literally a few meters from the picnic spot in that last turn for those who know where I'm talking you have to give some more gas to get the truck up the hill, and it was just then that a large Waterbuck Bull decided to cross the road. Robert slammed on the brakes and luckily we missed him, he was soon followed by his females. We watched them for a few minutes and then went for a leg stretch at the picnic site.
The truck had not even came to a proper standstill and one of the ladies were already on her way to the loo. Robert had to act quick to stop her as he first had to load the rifle, secure the area and check that nothing was lurking in the bathrooms. He barely finished his checks and she made sure she was first in line.
While waiting for the people on loo-break the others admired the beauty of the stars from a hill in Kruger!
It was marvelous!!! After this quick stop we headed back towards Lower Sabie.
On the way back we found some Kudu, Waterbuck and our Giraffes of earlier. We also saw another pair of yellow eyes glaring at us and with a fleeing glimpse we saw an African Wildcat jump from a tree and disappeared into the long grass!!!
Amazing or what!
Now if you thought this would be the last predator sighting you would be so wrong. Soon we where greeted by a spotted coat walking casually down the road. Unfortunately for the Big 5 seekers on the drive it was no Leopard but a Cheetah!!!
In the darkness of the night! We drove behind it for a couple of meters and then it went off the road, just to look back at us for a few magical seconds and then disappearing again, as all the other feline friends on this drive.
We started getting close to the Sabie again and this meant Hippo's. I was quite excited as I've never really seen Hippo on land except those lying on the sand banks of the rivers. Tonight I would see enough of them we must have had close to twenty sightings. At one sighting there was a mother and her very small calf following her, how precious.
And to end our evening off on a high mister/misses Serval decided to pitch for a quick hi and bye.
How much more lucky can one have on a Sunset Drive!!!!! We headed over the bridge and was greeted by the smells of wood burning on the braais. We had made it back to camp safe and very happy customers.THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SUCH AN AWESOME DRIVE ROBERT, IT WAS GREAT HAVING YOU AS OUR GUIDE!!!!!