Tuesday 25 October 2011 Mopane to Olifants
At quarter to six we were all packed and ready and a little sad to depart from our charming Mopane Accommodation. Our first creatures of the day were a small herd of waterbuck and a variety of swifts – Little, Horus and Black were once again flying over and under the low bridge.
We’d just relaxed into our journey when the first excitement of the day occurred. Earlybird spotted something on the road ahead of us. A korhaan. “It’s got it’s red crest up,” I said in awe.
We have seen this bird many times but never ever with its crest up. We got ourselves into twists and knots and ungainly positions to get the perfect photograph. He was completely oblivious of us because he was in courting mood but the indifferent female a few meteres away simply ignored him and pecked away at the ground having her breakfast.
He must be feeling really sexy came one comment – Koraan Erectus retorted another.
We watched this display for ages and eventually he pursued his desired and she skipped through the long grass and then onto the road to the other side where he chased her with the crest spreading and closing but despite his best efforts to win her favours she refused him and he had to give up.
Wow – what a great start to the day.
Next we went to see if anything was happening at the buffalo carcass. We were well rewarded. Standing aside in anticipation were a pack of jackals. We saw two lions from our view point. We decided to move higher up the hill although it was further away and from there saw that the lions had gone and the jackals were on the kill. We returned down the hill and then saw 7 lions lying a little way off from the carcass. The jackals were feasting and fighting for the best morsels and kicking up dust in their scuffle.
It was great to have this sighting to ourselves for quite a while. When other cars arrived, we’d had our fill and moved on.
The early morning start was indeed rewarding. A little later, we came upon a water hole and in the trough two cheeky hyena were having a bath. They just sat there enjoying the cool water and then a wildebeest appeared in the trees behind them. They were immediately alert and we thought there might be a stand off but the clever gnu decided to keep his distance and kept to the shelter of the trees.
We continued to Malopenyana waterhole, met some warthogs and observed a greenshank beside the waterhole.
Further on our route we found a tawny eagle in a tree and a fish eagle perched close enough for a portrait.
At 9 o’clock we stopped for a welcome breakfast at Letaba rest camp and found the food quite satisfactory. Earlybird had the bushveld breakfast, Eec the croissant tower, H2 the chicken burger and I had toasted egg and bacon. We tried to find the Scops owls in the campsite trees without success but did find a Kurrichane thrush sitting on her nest.
Our route took us alongside the river and we saw lots of animals and birds. Giraffe delighted us, impala were ever-present, some zebra rolled in the dust, and we watched elephants swimming and playing in the river.
On many previous trips we have crossed a certain ford where terrapin come rushing out to meet any passing vehicle.
We are certain they do this because somebody started a practice of feeding them and they have learnt that an easy meal may be forthcoming. Sure enough when we came upon this stream where there is just a pond of water on one side the little critters came begging again. Last year in their midst there was a baby crocodile and he was there still – only now he was twice his previous size. I wonder what he will do when he outgrows the pond. He lay dead still with only his eyes and nose above the surface but eventually came out onto a rock and showed us how fearsome he really was.
At a lookout point we gazed down to see hippo parked off beside the river bank, elephants bathing, saddle-billed and yellow-billed storks and fish eagles from time to time. It was lovely to see so much activity in this area of the park in spite of it being a very hot day.
We arrived at Olifants Camp at half past one and went to check in. Of course I was smiling and delighted to be at one my favourite camps. “How did you enjoy, Mopane?” asked the clerk. “Lovely,” I replied. “It is a very nice camp?” “Better than here?” he asked. “Oh no,” said I diplomatically. “Olifants is my favourite camp.” “I can see that,” he said, “because you are smiling and look very happy to be here.” Then Earlybird came in also with a smile on his face and he said – You must be together because you’re both smiling!”
He explained all the activities on offer and said that all wild card holders would be offered a 20% discount.
We were given keys for hut 7 and 8 and were delighted with the fantastic river view that we had.
We unpacked and relaxed on the stoep for a while – although the heat was extreme. But we saw a Diederick’s cuckoo, a puff back with his white rump in full fluff, a green spotted dove strutting about,
and a bul-bul having a bath in a puddle made by the aircon’s condensation.
In the river elephants came down to drink, hippo were grunting and getting out onto the rocks, zebra were nearby
and to the left of our hut Eec alerted us to a klipspringer nimbly climbing up to a flat rock where he stood and stared at us, possibly wondering what kind of creature we were.
I did not want to go out again as it had been a very long morning. But Earlybird was eager to get out and seek the leopard that had been reported on the tar road. By 4 o’clock we’d all rested in our huts and agreed that it would be great to be in the air-conditioned vehicle for just another two hours. Well what a rewarding trip it turned out to be – not far along we saw a traffic jam – it had to be the leopard. But no - one of the car occupants told us there were lions right next to the road. We managed to spot them through a gap between the cars – a pride of at least 6 sleeping adults, paws in the air, tummies bloated, some on top of each other and then to our delight – 4 tiny cubs. I managed to get a piccie of one with his head up.
We did not stay more than three minutes as other cars were coming and we’d seen and taken our pics and there’s nothing I hate more that traffic jams at sightings.
We went as far as the Olifants bridge crossed over then retraced our steps. We saw a fish eagle flying toward us, African pied wagtails, a pied kingfisher and common sandpiper.
It was 5:35 and we needed to get a move on to make it back by gate closing time. Earlybird kept to the speed limit which is fast if you want to spot things but we really did not have the time. However, I yelled stop – when I saw a bunny on the side of the road. He was sitting perfectly still and just begging for a photograph. It was a scrub hare and did not hop away but continued to have his supper quite unconcerned by our curiosity.
Our last sightings of the day were a few female kudu
and a journey of elegant giraffe browsing lazily on succulent leaves. What lovely gentle and graceful creatures they are. How creative is God to make such diverse and interesting creatures.
What a beautiful sunset we had to complete our day.
We enjoyed a supper of pan fried ostrich steaks, smash, beetroot, three bean salad and Greek salad before retiring for the night. It was hot and we were tired but very happy after such a fantastic day.