Lazy again, we get up rather late as we stay in the same camp today, so at 6:45 we head out of the gate away for a little morningrun up to Longwe lookout. It's still rather misty, so our choice to have coffee and a long shower at the camp is probably a good one as we would have seen little otherwise. The waterbuck are out in force at the Letaba river, which was still a little misty. The rising sun did give very nice light and some of my favorite animals greet us.
There is some discussion about the korhaan, I have called it a Blackbellied one, but some people call it the Red crested one. I hope those people are right, that would be a new tick on my birdlist.
We drive over the highwater bridge, after we have a good look what is meant with "high water". The height of the floods in 2000 is marked here, and it is nearly impossible to imagine the enormous amount of water that must have passed under and over the bridge. I think that I made some photo's of the bridge with the markers visible, but if I did that is on film, which I still have to develop.
From there we drive up the road to the Matambeni Birdhide, the first hide I ever visit. We are in luck, no one there, so we have a nice cup of coffee with crackers while looking out over the beautifull landscape. The panoramic photo I made of it still needs a lot of work, I can't get the colors right so you can easily see the edges, but will post that in the Camp & roads section of the forum when I have it right. The crackers seem to be very well know by the birds over there, a pair of starlings joins us as soon as they see it. Inexplicably one of the crackers has a fatal accident even though it was in a perfectly safe place, causing me to have to throw away the crumbs.
A very large group of fulvous ducks, at least 30, is on the little island across the hide, some playing hippo's between us and them, crocodiles, spurwing goose, african jacana, black winged stilts to the left, and a heron to the right. There is as good as no wind, an early morning sun, perfect! Except for the sudden splash near the island. A crocodile has sneaked there, and may have taken one of the ducks. My photo is too late of course, but looking through the lens I can't make out if he was succesfull or not.
We head back for camp as we need to move out of the rondawel and into our tent again. On the way back we stop at the highwater bridge again where we alight from the vehicle. I spot a pied kingfisher sitting beneath the railings and drop down to my belly to make some photo's of him. I know they are not going to be good with the shade and the green painted steel bars, but I've seen very few kingfishers thus far and want to have at least some photo's of them. And it's digital, so it doesn't cost anything. We have a long look around enjoying the view, and spot a three banded plover and two yellowbilled storks. And then I'm attacked by a monster!
A tiny, less than 1 centimeter long jumpingspider has either grossly overestimated it's size, or wants to use me as a taxi. I gently put him back on the railing and mount the close-up lens on my camera to take a few photo's of him. This took some doing as I had to take the photo's handheld, and with macro / close-up the area that is sharp is less than a half a millimeter wide. My subject did not help either, it still wanted to jump me, so the photo's ended up less sharp than I wanted.
Back in camp we load up the car and drive to the campingsite Jaco and Reinette had vacated, and set up the tent while listening to the lovely sound of the morning doves. A little bushbuck comes to check us out, and decides we are good neighbours.
We also see a redheaded weaver, several squirrels and a pair of house martins which seem to like the ablutions. After having lunch we decide to do the Letaba river road, even though GP is not too fond of that side due to all the mopane. Just out of camp we see a car parked on the side of the road, always nice to see as people only stop if there is someting to see. It's a little chameleon crossing the road, risking it's life. We pull over on the other side of the road so I can make some photo's, and quickly after that stop a car which wants to pass between our cars. That would have been the end of the little animal. It turns out that we stopped a SANParks car, which amuses us. They take a wide turn around the chameleon and disappear around the corner. I don't know if you know how a chameleon walks, but they wobble to and fro a lot between each step. It was going to take ages for the little one to cross the road, with a great chance of being hit by a car, so after checking if the SANParks car had come back I get out of the car and give him a little lift. Those toes are quite strong actually. (SANParks: please don't read the last few lines!)
Along the riverroad we meet an elephant with a broken off tooth. This must be rather unhandy for the poor animal as they are left or right toothed, and most likely the broken off tooth was his favorite. In the riverbed there are a lot of vultures and marabous sunning so we keep our eyes (and nose) open for a kill somewhere but never find a trace of it. Just after Mingerhout Dam we come upon the N'wanetsi river, not the same one as on the S100, and stop for a while. There is a few centimers of water in it, and I hunt for kingfishers. We see a pair of blacksmith plovers, one of which attracks my attention as he seems to be a little anxious. With reason actually, a python which I guess to be slightly over two meters is swimming there.
The plover follows the python around at a fairly short distance, which is a bit puzzling at first. The python can actually grab him according to us. I then notice that his mate stays in one place, so assume they have a nest there, although it's not really the season for it. A monitor lizard comes creeping out of the bushes, which again proves that you should just stop in places and let the game parade in front of you. This causes me to quickly switch CF-cards, just in case the python decides to make a meal out of the monitor. Interesting stuff, but the animals decide otherwise, and split up after a while.
We drive on and see only a bit of general game. Longwe lookout is the next place we decide, and maybe a little time in the hide after that. Longwe has a great view! As you can see you can see all over the Engelhard Dam, but not the dam itself. When you drive back down there is a little loop which will bring you to the dam itself. The next turnoff goes to Anna Ledeboer's grave, where you have a great view of the dam as well, but from the other side.
At the little loop to the right of the dam there is a huge tree. I saw a fisheagle head for it and was starting to become very happy, finally a fisheagle photo which is not made from miles away! Well... You've guessed it, it parked itself on the wrong side of the tree. I still have no good photo of a fisheagle. Back to camp, we have spent too much time drinking in the landscape, and no time anymore for the hide. On the way we spot what we think is a greater spotted eagle, but we are still not sure.
Spent the next morning driving towards Engelhard Dam and my 2nd favourite birdhide Mtambeni. Spent hours there just enjoying the view. Had a few hippos as company with lots of birds coming and going as usual. If you haven't been here, do it. Worth every bit, clean, well-looked after. Drove the S47 Mingerhout Loop and ended with a very special one for me – the python and lapwing. Well spotted DQ. I would never have realized the snake was there as I was looking at the middle of the stream and grasses for birds while the snake was swimming along the edge of the reeds. A sighting I thoroughly enjoyed. Ended the day with a drive up Longwe and exploring the loops round the dam, found Anna Ledeboer's grave.
Night 2 did make up for night 1 as we camped, actually we took Jaco's spot! Camping at Letaba is good. The campsite has a bush atmosphere but to me equal to that at Skukuza. Highlight for me was the Mourning Doves all over, love the sound they make. Had a White-bellied sunbird visiting the aloes right by our front door. Tiny little creature! A young bushbuck ewe also frequented the area around our campsite.
Letaba on my scale gets a 6/10 for the camp (Sorry guys, I know some of you love the place, but it just isn't me!) and a 7/10 for the camping grounds.