Part Three9 May - Lower Sabie - Crocodile Bridge - Lower Sabie
Today was yet another day that was overshadowed by rental cars problems and by other matters that required me to plan my drives so that I would be someplace where I had cell phone reception at some point during business hours. Despite this hassle, I would still never want blanket cell phone reception throughout KNP. Far better that if you must
be able to make calls or/and receive messages, then you have to plan to get yourself to an area with reception, just as I did. I hope that I never arrive at a waterhole or viewpoint to find some oke settled in for an hour or two of making and receiving his daily phone calls — which is what will happen. Bad enough those in camp who sit out on their stoep or at a camp restaurant or on a bench on the lawn at Satara having such conversations, completely audible to those around them. Shame that so many have completely lost the concept that a holiday means getting away from it all and feel the need to be so always connected.
I knew from the drive back from Skukuza to Lower Sabie that I wasn't at all happy with my replacement car, a Ford Focus, which was far larger than the little Micra, both unnecessarily large for a solo traveler and in my view, too large for the park's narrow and often twisty sand roads. In order to try the car a bit more (and because the rental office wouldn't be open for a few hours), I took an early morning drive before returning to camp to telephone. Turns out that not only did the rental car company feel that they were giving me the benefit of an "upgrade" to a higher class of car, they also didn't have a smaller car with air conditioning. I said that in fact, electric windows were more important to me than AC, as it had been quite chilly for the past week. While they went off to check on their available cars, I took another short drive and while driving, got a "low brake fluid" warning, so when I next spoke to the rental company, they agreed that the car then had to be replaced, but unfortunately they did not have a smaller car with electric windows, best they could do was a Nissan Almera. To make things simple, and to give myself drive time in the park rather than waiting in camp for them, I suggested that I meet their driver with the replacement car at the Croc Bridge Gate at noon. That gave their driver ample time to get there from Nelspruit and me a nice leisurely drive to collect what was now my 4th car in three weeks!!
I had a pleasant and uneventful drive to Croc Bridge except for an encounter with a family group of ellies on the S28. You always need to be careful around a group with youngsters and to be aware that there are often more ellies than you can see. This appeared to be quite a relaxed group, but my position became very tricky (and dangerous) when the matriarch suddenly decided that I was too close for her liking, and I couldn't reverse quickly because another car had come up behind me, parked across the road to get a better view for photos, and turned off their engine!!
Eventually, they got their car started and out of my way and I was able to reverse, but when I saw these same people later at Croc Bridge, I explained to them how potentially dangerous that situation had been — especially for me!! — and that at an elephant sighting you should always be careful that you are not blocking someone else's escape route. They apparently had NO idea and were only thinking about getting nice photos.
After collecting my replacement car and having a snack and a nice browse around the Croc Bridge shop, I headed north. A few cars were gathered less then a kilometer outside of the camp gates, so I slowed to ask what they were seeing and was told that it was a young female cheetah!!
The bush was quite thick and at first it was like viewing her through a lattice, but this was only my second time ever to see cheetah in KNP, so I stuck around and was soon able to move a bit and get a somewhat better, tho still distant, view of her. However, as more cars arrived, she became increasingly nervous, moved a bit several times, and finally, unable to relax and settle, disappeared from view. Altogether, I'd say I was able to watch her for nearly 15 minutes, and even at a distance and somewhat obscured, this was a memorable sighting!! I definitely felt that, like the leopard the previous evening, I was being somehow rewarded for all the aggro of my car problems. can you find the cheetah?
Little did I know, the best was yet to come! My day's objective, despite these detours, was to find out whether the Salitjie Road (S30) was in as dreadful a condition as rumoured — which it wasn't; the S36 is FAR worse in my opinion and definitely to be avoided. I found the Salitjie Road to be in quite reasonably good condition and it also delivered excellent sightings, which the S36 did not. The road itself is very scenic and shortly after I turned into it, a car stopped to tell me that there was a very large breeding herd of ellies up ahead. Despite my unnerving experience that morning, I spent quite a long time enjoying this group, which included quite a few really small ones, including two who might have been twins — do ellies ever have twins?
After about 15-20 minutes with these ellies, I moved on and was soon stopped by a couple whom I'd actually reprimanded for protruding at the ellies. They as first-time visitors had no idea it was forbidden because they'd not until then noticed the rules in their map book (or in the booklet they had received at the gate), and they were very contrite, embarrassed and apologetic. And now they had waited for me to arrive here so that they could point out the three sable antelope that were only barely visible in the fairly thick bush. I very well might not have seen the sable were it not for this thoughtful couple and I am eternally grateful as sable were (with wild dog) at the top of my wish list. My only other sighting of sable had been a brief glimpse in 1987 of about six moving away from me through tall grass. These were in a thicket and not all that easy to see (and I never did see all three), but I was able to observe first one and then a second one for nearly a half an hour before both again lay down so that only their horns were visible in the tall grass. Other cars stopped but stayed only briefly, while by moving my car as the two sable moved, I was able to get a reasonably clear view of them for quite some time. This, together with my wild dog sighting, was the absolute highlight of my trip — utter magic!!!can you spot the 2 sable?
My return to camp after this lengthy sighting was a bit rushed as I wasn't quite sure how long it would take, and I wanted to avoid being late. Fortunately, I didn't encounter anything dramatic along the way, although I did have a glimpse of what might have been a bush pig (no pix, and admittedly unlikely), as well as a whitecrowned plover (poor pix in poor light).sightingsH4-1
: redcrested korhaans, warthog, impalaH4-2
: Swainson's francolinS28
: whitebacked vulture, impala yellowbilled storkH10
: hippo, warthogs, Burchell's coucal, impalaS29
: bull elephant, kudu, steenbokH10
: reed cormorant, hippoH4-2
: impala, hippo, crowned plover, zebra, family herd of elliesH4-2
: impala, cheetah, wildebeest, impala, waterbuckS130
: impala, zebra, chameleon, wildebeest, purple roller, bataleur, tree squirrelsH4-2
: BBJ, ?vulture?, hippo, impalaH10
: hippo, impalaS128
: impalaS30 Salitjie Road
: large breeding herd of elephant, sable antelope, impala, zebra, wildebeest, ?bushpig?H4-1
: fish eagles, baboons, whitecrowned plover, tawny eagle