Thursday, 26th August
Up bright and early, we loaded the car before the vervets could make mischief again. Pausing at the gate to drop off our keys we drove down the tar towards the junction with the H1-5 to head south. It would be a busy day and we started off well with a grey heron, steenbok, a beautiful kudu bull and lesser striped swallow.
With a brief stop on the bridge, we then continued along the road and shortly noticed a car behind me flashing his lights. As SO will tell you, I usually think this is because I have done something wrong or my vehicle is falling apart (don’t ask!) but I slowed to a stop and the following car stopped alongside us. We were happy to meet H Christal and SO from Italy. Thank you for the brief chat and I hope you had a safe journey back to Jo’burg as you were flying home that evening. Sorry we did not know you were also at Olifants as we could have met up for a beer last night. Maybe next time. I think it was their first visit to Kruger and they said they had had a wonderful trip with many amazing sightings. This obviously continued as we both stopped shortly afterwards for 3 male lions (only 1 in the photo) who were now seeking a sleeping place for the rest of the day.
Our plan was to continue on the tar road southwards and stop at Tshokwane for breakfast. We kept to this plan but we were totally spoiled for choice with incredible sightings along the road. 5 ground hornbills in flight, 5 kudu, a group of 4 ostrich
4 bull elephants, a lovely group of 3 white rhino,
more kudus, steenbok and another rhino. Then the largest herd of Buffalo we had seen on this trip – we estimated 1000+.
Next came warthogs, more steenbok, a large herd of wildebeest, black-shouldered kite,
a journey of giraffe (including a mother and baby).
At Nkaya Pan we saw young baboons
with hippos, Egyptian geese, blacksmith plovers and 4 elephants at the pan. Next to grace us with their presence were zebras, warthogs playing in the mud and a brown snake eagle followed by a breeding herd of elephant and 3 more ground hornbills. Each time we see these birds now, we recall the work which has been done by the Park workers to increase their numbers. They were a bird we did not see for several years and now we are thrilled to see them almost every day. Their eyelashes are truly amazing and we have a favourite photo at home which shows them to perfection and has been entered for several photo competitions.
At Mazithi WH we enjoyed hippo, 8 waterbuck, zebra, marabou storks and wildebeest. Next came 7 giraffe and 2 slender mongoose before pulling into the Picnic spot for a well earned break. It is almost a shock to read through our notes today and appreciate just how much we have seen and the time is just 9.30 am. Wow! What else can we say!
Back on the road again, we turned off to check who was waiting at Silolweni for us –hippo, crocodile, saddle-billed storks, African fish eagle, hammerkop, grey heron and warthogs. Just another quiet day then!! Spotting another giraffe and a klipspringer we soon saw a growing traffic jam close to Mantimahle Waterhole. Luckily everyone had the courtesy to move slowly along so that all who stopped could get a glimpse of the lion and lioness settling down in the shade.
Sadly many people who were stopping a few kilometres further (by the junction with the road towards the bridge) had no such respect for their fellow guests. We think it was a mating pair of lions but short of climbing out onto our car roof, we stood little or no chance of getting a glimpse of more than an ear or swish of a tail. The behaviour and selfishness of some of those here were truly shocking and I will not go into more details.
If we could have moved on (either forwards or backwards) we would have done so and some people were even resorting to driving way into the bush just to escape.
It would not be the last, or even the worst, case of a road block we would experience this trip but each time it saddens us that people can display such appalling behaviour. We were very relieved to be able to move on eventually and try not to let it spoil our mood for the rest of the day. Luckily a beautiful pied kingfisher sat on the bridge as we crossed the Sabie River
and we gradually calmed down watching the water flow over the rocks below.
We were booked in at Skukuza tonight but it was still much too early to check in. We stopped by at the shop for a welcome ice-cream and then drove along to one of our truly favourite places in Kruger, Lake Panic. What better spot could we select to pass a few hours and we were rewarded with a martial eagle, hippo, crocodiles, white-fronted bee-eaters,
a family of bushbuck, hadeda ibis, malachite and pied kingfishers, black crakes, jacana family, bulbul, goliath heron,
African darters, terrapins, grey herons, chinstrap batis , bataleur, weavers and male nyala.
We have often wondered if it would be possible to literally every Kruger animal and bird at Lake Panic if you sat there for long enough. One thing is certain though, we have never ever been disappointed by sightings here. By late afternoon, however, it was time to drag ourselves away and return to camp to check in. It is many years since we had stayed at Skukuza and, to be honest, it had not been our first choice on this trip but they had accommodation and we needed somewhere in the south to stay that night. As with our sightings for the day, we were pleasantly surprised and really liked our bungalow (I think it was 72B) and would definitely book here again with no qualms. It was quiet, comfortable, well-equipped and quite close to the perimeter. We also met some charming neighbours who we shared our Kruger thoughts with as the braai reached temperature. All in all a pretty amazing day for our last full one in the Park this time.